Eddie Vedder’s Star-Studded solo album Is a Reminder of His Individuality


During the 1990s, there were few rockers who embodied the era's ethos more than Eddie Vedder. As the lead singer and guitarist of Pearl Jam, Vedder was a spokesperson for a generation of young angst and rebellion. As Bruce Springsteen before him, Vedder championed the working class, disenfranchised peoples, took populist political stances, and penned emotional, existential ballads.

With his third solo album, Earthling, Vedder steps away from the comfort of the familiar, to embrace the continuation of his solo career. At 57-years-old, the question remains on how Veddar can remain anti-establishment as part of rock-and-roll royalty.

eddie vedder-earthling cover
Eddie Vedder-earthling

During Pearl Jam’s prime, Vedder and his band were hanging out with Dennis Rodman, the provocateur of the NBA, as pop-cultural punks. On Earthling, Vedder is jamming with Stevie Wonder, Ringo Starr, and Elton John.

On “Picture,” Vedder and John collaborate on a piano-driven country ditty, returning the favor from when Vedder was featured on John’s “E-Ticket” last year. Ringo Starr joins him on the Beatles simulacrum, “Mrs. Mills,” which sounds like a Beatles echo while.

Where has all the rage gone? Outside of movie soundtracks, Vedder hasn’t released a solo album since 2011. Since then, the musical landscape has shifted in broader ways than perhaps any other decade of the last half-century. 808 drum machines can be found in almost every genre of music. The biggest performers in the world blend rap and R&B, including K-Pop and Bad Bunny. The album’s backing band—Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, former Chili Pepper guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, and producer Andrew Watt on bass surround Vedder with competence and pop accessibility, creating a record that is both digestible and built for award season.

eddie vedder-earthling-fallout today
Eddie Vedder, earthling, fallout today

Yet the question remains, is there a place for Vedder’s crunchy, throaty voice in today’s auto-tune factory? The chamber-pop of Earthling finds the troubadour contemplating what most of us thought about while holed up in our homes, waiting for the zombie Covid-pocalypse. What’s love? Who are we? What’s our place in this world? The title itself situates Vedder's view of where he stands amongst the ennui of Earthhood, as just a speck of sand. As a producer, Watt injects his pop formula from past collaborations with Post Malone and Miley Cyrus to turn Vedder’s penchant for long-winded diatribes into punchy, musical hangouts.

The tracks on Earthling never overstay their welcome. The average track on the 13 track album lasts about three minutes, with the entire album clocking in under an hour. Throughout a three decades-long career, Vedder has given us tomes on anguish and amber. With his third solo record, he keeps the conversations short. The guitars are punchy, his vocals are free-flowing and spastic.

Vedder’s feminist dad rock is an odd reclamation project in today’s landscape. The trueblood Pearl Jam apologists will be ready and willing for whatever he produces. But the skeptics, or even more, the uninitiated, could see him as a bygone footnote. What still resonates, after all these years, is Vedder’s lack of moralizing. That’s not to say he isn’t interested in the centuries-old concept of morality, but he is more a ponderer than a preacher. In a day and age where everyone is quick to grasp the binaries of black and white, right and wrong, Vedder is most at home on the fringes of the gray scale.

Vedder has gathered veterans of rock and roll together on an album of unabashed jam sessions. These legends of music give the album texture without stealing the spotlight. These are clearly musicians he trusts. On the surface, many of these songs seem simple, maybe even banal. But simplicity is a welcome respite from the complex messaging we choose to inundate ourselves with on the daily. This is best heard in what feels like a tribute to his late friend, Chris Cornell on “Brother the Cloud,” where he laments, “Put your arms around my brother, my friend/Say for me … fuck you … what are friends for?”

And yea, the songs on his newest album are a little watered down, but so is the idea of hope. Hope as a concept, as an action, a choice, a testament, has become increasingly unfashionable. If Vedder, in his graying age, is peddling anything it is this. It’s hope in the face of uncertainty. As he does on the album’s final track, “On My Way,” where he sings for his father, a man he barely knew for most of his adult life “When we love, we’re invincible.” Everything around us is changing, socially, politically, even familiarly. On Earthling, Vedder is making his case for why hope should be spared.

eddie vedder-earthling-Invincible
Eddie Vedder, earthling, Invincible

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