DPR IAN’s Five-Star Feat
An analysis of DPR IAN’s stellar new album, its accompanying videos, and its successful attempts to help audiences understand how his mind works.
To say that DPR IAN is a compelling artist is an understatement. His body of work is truly remarkable and underrated, and its latest addition may be his best and most human one yet. Ironically, by amping up the drama in his storytelling, Moodswings In To Order shows him at his most genuine. By introducing audiences to every facet of his personality, through dramatized portrayals that are visually and auditorily distinct from one another, DPR IAN represents the craving for clarity in the process of self-discovery and the eventual realization that finding oneself requires accepting the inevitable blurring of the lines between parts of the self.
The Main Characters in DPR IAN’s Story
While the main character of last year’s release, Moodswings in This Order, was presumably just MITO, a second one enters the picture on this year’s release: Mr. Insanity. In DPR IAN’s musical world, MITO is a fallen angel seeking to get out of the abyss into which he has fallen. Mr. Insanity is the one responsible for banishing MITO into the abyss, upon realizing MITO is not the symbol of innocence and purity he was originally thought to embody. MITO’s bitterness and jealousy reveal themselves, but rather than take and learn from his punishment, MITO remains on a quest to be the sole protagonist. The ensuing clashes between MITO and Mr. Insanity - not to mention DPR IAN’s other, unnamed alter egos - are a metaphor for his state of mind. DPR IAN visually and lyrically represents his bipolar disorder as a cosmic battle, a gargantuan fight that it only makes sense to show with this level of intensity. The high-stakes, spiritual conquest matches the consuming nature of bipolarity, and much like anyone’s spiritual journey, the search for a sense of identity remains a messy work in progress.
DPR IAN travels through his emotional highs and lows in his new album’s symphonic short films. A handful of songs from the album plays as he moves through scene after scene. His voice and physical appearance change as different alter egos take control over him. Whether or not his wandering is leading in the direction of a breakthrough or dragging him further away from one remains unclear, as whispers, weapons, and other things that keep him on alert follow him.
DPR IAN seeks out extremes to see which persona fits him best, hoping one will fit him like a glove and allow him to then eliminate the other personas from consideration. “If I see myself in A, then surely I do not identify at all with B,” for example. But what he realizes through doing this is that A and B look more alike than they first appeared, and he can simultaneously see himself in both. Learning to accept that middle ground and not run towards one extreme in the pursuit of clear self-definition is what his latest release is all about.
The Story Told Through Visuals
Part of what makes his music’s visual components so intriguing is their varied applicability. Some viewers might see his character as one person undergoing lots of changes, while others might see completely different people inhabiting DPR IAN’s form. While some might see a person struggling against forces, others might see someone giving up and giving in to them. Some might mistake MITO for Mr. Insanity, or vice versa. After all, they are more alike than one might assume. Both the fallen angel and the angel’s punisher clamor for a sense of status stability and relentlessly pursue the role of a singular main character.
DPR IAN’s dark, rich storytelling is a profound way to depict life with bipolar disorder. Yet the highly-personal nature of his work also makes it broadly relatable. He uses personal experiences to exemplify the conflicting identities one has inside of oneself, the endless balancing act among different parts of the self, and the coping mechanism - yet ultimate failure - of attempting to sever these parts from each other to deal with them one by one.
The Story Told Through Sound
All philosophizing aside, Moodswings In To Order is also just full of catchy songs! His sound is as varied as the possible interpretations of his songs, from electronica songs to trap-synth jams to violin-driven tunes. The listening experience is like listening to a theatrical production on tape, and the intentional seamlessness with which one song bleeds into the next one is reminiscent of Jaden’s excellent SYRE and ERYS albums.
In addition to being powerful, Moodswings In To Order is an efficient story. It is a contained narrative while staying part of a larger one, a collection of diary entries that seem random and incomplete individually but create a picture of his true self when all put together. It also reuses the “MITO '' acronym from his previous album title, Moodswings in This Order, as a reminder of the story’s continuity.
The swift transitions between songs amplify the overall mood of the album: as DPR IAN undergoes an intense psychoanalysis through the actions of fictional characters, listeners take a trip through his mind that moves with a fittingly jolting nature. Some songs dart from sound to sound, inflection to inflection, as if he is in a speed round of trying on different characters to see which one suits him best. A cartoonishly high-pitched voice is quickly replaced with a very deep one, or vice versa, a song’s tone abruptly changes, an alter ego mutters a lyric beneath a different character’s line… the songs are unpredictable and so multifaceted. Keeping listeners on their toes brings home the tension at the core of his story: everyone is an amalgamation of characters, a collection of multitudes. No one is a clear-cut character at the expense of other characters; humans contain a wide range of personas without easy categorizations that distinguish them from one another. This middle ground between taking one role over another in life runs contrary to bipolarity. DPR IAN gravitates towards the extremes, the ultimate example of one character at the expense of its opposite. But this is simply not possible to fully embody! The endless struggle to find oneself is about learning to find peace in the messy medium, to accept that just because one is not “MITO” does not mean one must be “Mr. Insanity,” or vice versa. Finding oneself requires challenging black-and-white thinking, symbolized well by the choice of red cover art this time, in contrast to last year’s album’s black cover.
This is all just one interpretation of his work, of course. One of the reasons to admire it is its ambiguity. Different listeners walk away with different and very personal interpretations of what they have heard. DPR IAN’s story manages to resonate with those who feel like the exaggerated descriptions of feelings are not actually exaggerated at all, but it also prompts those who are not bipolar to see themselves in his story and realize how deep their own emotions can truly feel. DPR IAN highlights the fact that people are people, all with their own layers worth unpacking and accepting.
Although Moodswings In To Order is likely to leave those with bipolar disorder or another mental illness feeling heard the most, this release has the ability to have a profound impact on all. It prompts the audience to contemplate the nature of identity and the ways in which the quest to find a clear middle ground among extreme emotions can feel as evasive as it is complicated. DPR IAN’s story is simultaneously a suspenseful work of fiction and more real than many nonfiction works, when it comes to accurate portrayals of emotions’ depths.
Regardless of how DPR IAN’s music and videos are consumed and interpreted, the most important thing is to indeed consume and interpret them! Artists like him do not come around often, and he deserves more acclaim for his detailed, impressive ways of sharing how he sees the world - and how the changes in how he sees the world cause him to question who he is at his core.
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