With a vocal like his, Chris Ning doesn’t need to do much to make a simple single sound like something a symphony created, and this has never been quite as true as it is in the new track “Explode” and its accompanying music video, both of which are out now and available everywhere smart indie pop is sold and streamed. “Explode” pushes a couple of creative boundaries that Ning has been nudging for a little while now in a lot of his most recent work, and though it might not expand on his artistic identity, it drops one heck of a powerful message on us in no uncertain terms.

As boldly cinematic as the song feels on its own, the irony of it is that the music video made and inspired by its lyrics is actually a lot simpler than the dynamics of its source material would suggest it should be. By choosing the minimalistic route on this one, I think Ning emphasizes how important it is that we tune-in to the verses he’s putting together over and specific visuals that are being put in front of us; the symbolism of an endless horizon definitely isn’t lost on anyone being attentive to the intricacies of the music, and moreover, the imagery itself.

I love the lyrical awareness Ning has with the audience in this song, and to some extent I think it’s what makes “Explode” sound so much more mature and focused than some of the content I’ve heard sporting a similar narrative has in the past few years. There are a lot of artists that try to speak about suicide, and even more that have been affected by it in our lifetime – myself included – but this isn’t the sort of metaphor-heavy affair that many have come to dread when hearing an artist is about to broach the subject. It’s endearing and unrelenting, a combination too often squandered in the pop genre.

Canadian and American pop fans of all ages, races, genders and social backgrounds need to go out of their way to hear what Chris Ning has to say in this all-new single and music video, if for no other reason than to hear just how powerful a voice and message this singer/songwriter can belt out when his heart is in the subject matter. The crossover appeal here is something a lot of critics are going to zero-in on, but for me, the story being told is the real reason folks have to hear this in 2020.

Sebastian Cole