Dominic Fike, “Sunburn”

The songwriter and Euphoria actor’s sophomore record feels more grounded and mature than his debut without losing his no-bullshit charm.

Dominic Fike, Sunburn

The songwriter and Euphoria actor’s sophomore record feels more grounded and mature than his debut without losing his no-bullshit charm.

Words: Margaret Farrell

July 14, 2023

Dominic Fike

Dominic Fike spends most of his sophomore album Sunburn trying to figure out how he got where he is. From jail to a GRAMMY nomination and a prominent role in one of the most influential teen dramas of the 21st century, he’s looking back through the photographs and tracking down the memories. “I be looking through the photo album / You remember all the good old days? K-Swiss and polo down,” he raps at hyper-speed on opener “How Much Is Weed?” But this nostalgia isn’t all rose-tinted: “And mama had to put a down payment by herself / And ain’t nobody even try to help,” he continues, the full reality coming into view. 

When Fike released his debut album What Could Possibly Go Wrong in July 2020, he revealed his skill for gritty earworms with candid lyricism. Where moments of his debut felt like understandable outbursts against explosive notoriety and emotional growing pains, Sunburn feels more grounded and mature without losing his no-bullshit charm. On the new album, Fike returns home to Florida as an act of closure, diving into details about his upbringing involving drug-dealing, addiction, and his family trying to make ends meet. But instead of his background being painted as a rags-to-riches story about a rising pop star, Fike is taking stock of how those memories, traumas, loves, and losses have evolved over time. He doesn’t hold back on detailing the darkness—the arrests, the heartbreak, the drugs, the hunger. It’s what imbues his music with such gravity. 

Sure, the melodies are sticky and elastic; the sunnied guitar lines alongside his easy-going vocals recall Jack Johnson or Dispatch at times. But over these instrumentals Fike manages to transform debased realities into mind-bending pop songs without compromising the wholeness of his experiences, each of these 15 tracks constantly shape-shifting like a Rubik’s cube. Fluid guitar plucks on “How Much Is Weed?” swim among caffeinated hi-hats and oil-slick raps. Jazzy trip-hop feels as much like his homebase as guitar-hero power-pop (“Ant Pile”) or lust-filled, acoustic-forward R&B (“Mona Lisa”). His collaborators on the record similarly span a wide spectrum—ranging from Weezer to Kenny Beats—reinforcing one of Sunburn’s heaviest themes: Dominic Fike thrives off the company that surrounds him. 

What Could Possibly Go Wrong felt like fragments of unfinished musings, whereas Sunburn feels like a complete thought. Fike has explained how, as a 27-year-old writing about being 16, this album was an act of closure. In interviews he’s reflected on his codependent habits, a topic he doesn’t shy away from in his songs (“I couldn’t be all alone in this world / I’d be hanging from my neck / If she didn’t come check for me,” he divulges on “Bodies”). On the surface, Fike longs for a past relationship while also reconciling with jealousy as he thinks about a partner’s previous flings. It encapsulates Fike’s ongoing struggle to make peace with time’s ruthless trudge forward and the loss of loved ones along the way. He understands that their impact doesn’t always fade like colors in a photograph.