A guitar screeches like a car skidding off a hillside highway. A prayer to be “cancelled” rings out unapologetically. Melodic odes the finest fried foods, anesthetized Wurlitzer transmissions, and stoned doo wop harmonies fit like puzzle pieces on Dominic Fike’s 2020 full-length debut, What Could Possibly Go Wrong [Columbia Records]. The Florida-born and Los Angeles-based platinum singer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer cobbles together a cohesive vision out of seemingly disparate elements. Reverent of pre-grunge alternative, lo-fi hip-hop, and dream pop (yet wholly defiant of the lines between them), he serves up a searing statement.
“I just wanted to make an album,” he exclaims. “The whole process took a lot out of me, but it was worth it. In the past, everything was really short. I finally had to make a full project though. That’s what I tried to do.”
He quietly arrived at this realization. Growing up in Naples, Florida, his first memories included listening to Mariah Carey, Lil’ Kim, and the Jackson Five in the car with his mother or while she cleaned the house. Meanwhile, Dominic’s dad bought an old school four-track at a pawn shop for him. “I knew him briefly for a year, and I begged him to teach me some guitar chords,” he recalls.
Armed with a “physical audio workstation,” guitar, and mom’s iPad with GarageBand, he went from covering “Fireman” by Lil Wayne to forming a nascent rap collective during high school. In 2018, he captivated a rabid fan base with the Don’t Forget About Me, Demos EP. The single “3 Nights” picked up a platinum plaque and tallied nearly 1 billion streams on its own.
Along the way, he assembled What Could Possibly Go Wrong. He left Florida and spent three months in a long cabin in Breckenridge, Colorado. “I’d never seen snow, so I went to Colorado,” he says. “That’s where it started.” Over the next year, Dominic wrote and recorded everywhere from Hawaii and Texas to Europe before finishing in Los Angeles. “I was out there by myself,” he says. “I wasn’t with any of my family. Being in all of those places alone and experiencing everything I did made it feel like a real record. Whenever I would fly, I would listen to it on the plane. In the air, it felt like the album I wanted to make.”
He heralds What Could Possibly Go Wrong with the first single “Chicken Tenders.” Glassy synths underscore glitchy beat-work as bright guitars resound between a hypnotic hook, which he likens to “a group of four girls from the eighties singing.” Built around a beat he cooked up on the tour bus in Europe, “Cancel Me” hinges on the call-and-response of a provocative plea, “I hope they cancel me…Why? So, I can go be with my family…Why? So, I can quit wearing this mask, dawg. Tell the people kiss my ass, dawg.”
Meanwhile, the project begins with “Come Here.” An homage to the infamous loud-soft dynamic of Frank Black and The Pixies, a wiry distorted guitar lead squeals as Dominic screams, “Baby, why don’t you come here? I get so lonely at night.” Speaking about that song, Dom explains that "it sets the tone for everything. I’ve done hardcore rap songs, but I never did a hardcore rock song. I always wanted to find the sweet spot, and I think I did.”
He crafted “Wurli” at the iconic Shangri-La Studios in Malibu on “Bob Dylan’s Wurlitzer or something.” Meanwhile, the homage to his home state “Florida” closes out the album with airy verses and another hard-hitting hook. “Kenny Beats and I made it the first day we met,” he remembers. “It was never difficult for us. We just had this crazy chemistry.”
In the end, Dominic offers a glimpse at every side of himself on What Could Possibly Go Wrong. “There are a few ways to take it,” he leaves off. “For some people, maybe you play it when you’re showering or in the car. If you want to get a little introspective, there’s a message. I’ll get DM’s like, ‘Yo, I really needed this part.’ Or, they’ll say, ‘Yo, I just love to jam to this’. I hope everyone gets something out of it. I do recommend listening to that shit on a plane when you can again” he grins.