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At the end of 2020, I wrote about Giveon and how his heart quite literally opened and closed with the world that year. The Long Beach native was receptive to romance with his debut EP Take Time, all to watch it depart from his life some seven months later with the release of When It’s All Said And Done. Through it all, we were introduced to Giveon’s charming ways thanks to earnest records like “The Beach,” which doubles as an ode to his Long Beach home, and “Like I Want You.” His baritone-baked lyrics also came from a man who has his own fair share of toxic tendencies, an undeniable aspect that “Favorite Mistake” and “Still Your Best” both make very clear. Nonetheless, through both his good and bad actions, Giveon has been left empty-handed without someone to call his own and hold at night.
Nearly two years removed from the aforementioned projects, it appears that Giveon has realized that love is somewhat transactional. Not so much in the sense of only doing things for a loved one when something is guaranteed in return, but more so in light of the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It’s a revelation that Giveon stumbles upon during a conversation with his mother at the end of his newly-released debut album. “Love will give you what you need / But also, take what you don’t appreciate,” he says to conclude “Unholy Matrimony.” It’s this conversation that provides insight into the title of Giveon’s debut album: Give Or Take.
Prior to the release of Give Or Take, we’ve known Giveon to be someone that can love hard and hold on tight to what he hopes is a fleeting romance. Much of that is true through the music on Give Or Take, but there is a new presence within these baritone soliloquies: fear. It causes him to run for the door when the time for commitment arrives and it even leads to him building walls to unconquerable heights to ensure that he can avoid attending to his heavy baggage. To his benefit, Giveon admits to being battered and bruised by romance at several points on the album. “Scarred” comforts a partner who is emotional and frustrated at their failed attempts to get Giveon to commit to a relationship. “I just don’t want you same way you want me,” he sings. “I can’t give you my heart ‘cause it’s broken.” He delivers this message point-blankly while also suggesting that the pain he’s endured in the past pales in comparison to what his partner will experience due to his rejection.
Through the 15 songs that appear on Give Or Take, Giveon’s past traumas result in indecisiveness that brings stagnation to his journey of progressing from his past and moving toward a freer future. While Giveon seems set on blaming his past failures with love for his current missteps and unpreparedness, there is also a lack of determination to conquer his mountains on his part. On “This Will Do,” he settles for intimate moments for a fan he meets at a show despite knowing it’s not what he truly wants. Two songs later on “Tryna Be,” Giveon presents loyalty and staying faithful as an extraneous task that’s made further difficult due to his occupation as a popular and touring mainstream artist. Even with the discernment that he presents throughout the album, like we hear on “For Tonight,” Giveon sometimes opts to stick within the exhausting cycle of failed love. Perhaps this occurs due to his fear – there it is again – of searching for something new all to end up in the same position sometime later.
Within the rollercoaster ride of Give Or Take, Giveon also experiences a love that moves way too fast for his liking. A freefall from the heavens can only result in a fatal crash on Earth and Giveon is quite aware of this. It’s why he sings “slow it down, don’t wanna miss a moment” on “Make You Mine,” a message he reiterates on “July 16th” adding, “Goin’ too fast, it won’t end well.” Finally, as Giveon’s discernment told him so many times that it would, he and his partner’s speeding bullet towards a lifelong love slams into a wall, bringing everything to an abrupt end. It’s a dramatic explanation of a failed relationship, but as he explains on “Unholy Matrimony,” it comes through the realization that a lifelong commitment to each other is far from the best decision they could make for themselves. “All we’re waiting for behind these chapel doors,” Giveon sings, “is a crashing course to a bad divorce.”
At 27 years old, Giveon discovers the double-edged sword that is love. Its beauty, as well as its harsh and ugly truths, are brought forth to the light, forcing him to accept its never-ceasing presence. It’s through romance that he also learns that the back he stabs within it can return the favor with little remorse. The biggest thing for Giveon on Give Or Take is how he struggles with control in the realm of love. Giving control ends with him stumbling into something he’s not ready for while taking control results in him not receiving a fair chance to find someone to truly call his own for the long haul as his past pains arrive to interrupt that process. Giveon is still trying to find his balance in love, but it would certainly help him a whole lot if he let go of his old baggage to rediscover his footing and make some progress on his journey.
Give Or Take is out now via Epic Records. You can stream it here.