Breaking the 4th Wall of Ruel, A Rising Star

Eman Abdurezak, Editor-in-Chief

Six years ago, Ruel Vincent van Dijk, the 20-year-old Australian pop/R&B singer, officially began his career as a musician. Writing songs since 12, he released his debut single “Golden Years” in 2017 and gained momentum in 2018 with his ARIA Music Award-winning single “Dazed and Confused.” On March 3rd, he released his first and long-awaited studio album titled 4th Wall, inspired by films The Truman Show (1998) and Fight Club (1999). In 4th Wall, Ruel reflects on his life in the limelight by exploring the metaphor of being the main character in a film for the enjoyment of his audience—a phenomenon familiar to many in the entertainment industry. 4th Wall travels between the illusion of the media and reality. 

Throughout his career, Grammy award winner Mark Landon has been a constant mentor and one of Ruel’s main collaborators. Known by the stage name M-Phazes, the Australian producer has worked with artists of multiple genres such as Demi Lovato, Remi Wolf, Khalid, Eminem, and more, taking partial responsibility for the album’s tendency to flit between genres. Ruel’s first EP, appropriately titled Ready, was a powerful introduction to the music world especially for his age. The six tracks relatably captured the teenage experience of reflecting on relationships through honest lyricism accompanied by bold instrumentals. 

The 2019 single “Painkiller” (which is his most streamed song to date) put Ruel on the map, followed quickly by his first tour. “Painkiller” is the third track on his EP Free Time, where listeners found themselves listening to a more established version of Ruel. Free Time is full of stories and contemplation, exploring themes of loneliness, lost love, and fantasy. This EP seemed as though it would be hard to top, but 2020 brought collaboration with artists such as GRACEY, Denzel Curry, Cautious Clay, and Omar Apollo. Ruel joined Omar Apollo onstage to perform their single “Want U Around” at Coachella last year, a rite of passage for many rising artists.

Free Time is full of stories and contemplation, exploring themes of loneliness, lost love, and fantasy.

Especially with the extra time that arose from a lack of live shows due to the COVID-19 pandemic, his 2020 EP Bright Lights, Red Eyes (BLRE) proved to be something that was doubtlessly Ruel, from the visuals to the dreamy backing vocals and funky bass. BLRE additionally allowed Ruel to launch RuelVision, a 24-hour livestream television network. The content is set in an alternate universe, with segments featuring a 1970’s old-school Ruel as the main character in shows such as As Long As You’re Cooked (a reference to the first track “as long as you care”), and Bright Lights Gameshow (which you can now check out at RuelVision On-Demand). Ruel took 2020 to build not only a brand but a world around his music, which listeners would enter every time they hit play. Whether he knew it at the time or not, it was the perfect set up for what came next.

Since December 2021, Ruel has dropped six singles that made it into his most recent project 4th Wall, a parallel to the moments the titular character of The Truman Show realizes everything he knows wasn’t created organically. If you need a place to start, my top tracks at the moment from the album are “JAPANESE WHISKEY,” “LIE,” “LET THE GRASS GROW,” and “MUST BE NICE,” which are more mellow pockets of the album that I personally enjoyed.

Upon the album’s release, 4th Wall immediately flew up the charts, currently sitting at #3 on Australia’s top albums. Fans clamored to snag tickets for Ruel’s world tour starting next month, and additional shows were added in Washington, D.C. and Chicago due to high demand. Although the young singer-songwriter is still finding himself as an artist, it’s been quite the journey watching it all unfold.