Arts album review

Bildungsroman from the brink

Kollin Wasserlein ’19 releases his music album

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Album cover for "Brink".
Courtesy of Kollin Wasserlein

CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: A previous version of this article mixed up the album title and artist name. The album is called Ginger Ale, and the artist's name is Brink.

“Ginger Ale”
Produced and Written by Kollin Wasserlein
Released March 10, 2017

If you have walked through Stata and seen the chalk lettering of “Brink”, then you might have heard of Kollin Wasserlein ’19, who spent IAP producing his music album. Before spring break, I was fortunate enough to speak with Kollin about his creative process.

He recorded in the Baker Music Room, using the small space and soft walls to reduce echo. Kollin explained to me the difficulties of music engineering and compiling multiple tracks in a program. Kollin taught himself how to use music programs over the span of several weeks, and compiled his and his uncle's lyrics to create “Ginger Ale”. Cole Legg ’20 lent his musical talents to the album as well.

Kollin started writing lyrics sophomore year of high school and has continued through his years at MIT. He usually starts with lyrics before adding music and writing the chorus lines. The first song, “Ginger Ale,” was created from lyrics he had written in high school after his girlfriend cheated on him with his best friend. It took three months of revision to fit these lyrics to music. A later written “Caesar” — complete with a reference to the infamous line Et tu, Brute? — discusses the same incident regarding his best friend. “Vigilante Justice” and “Agassi” tackle sexual violence across university campuses, of which the elite Ivy League universities and MIT are not exempt.

Despite the heavy material, I also found myself rapping along to more lighthearted verses. Even in a song like “Vigilante Justice,” there are double entendres (“Pat me down I’m so clean / This D ain't got no ST”). Kollin’s catchy debut single, “Peaches,” is a fun romp about love in college, and “Legendary” is a tongue-in-cheek declaration: “My raps will be bitten / 'Cause these haikus I been spitten / Are like 5-7-5 / Boeing has wish lists of my syllables.”

His writing moves from biting to humorous as he transitions from the grievances and romances of a high schooler to those of a college student at MIT. If “Premise” could be called anything, it would be a declaration against social injustice, with lines such as “Call me the jock hurting Robin Hood or / Saint with a knightly cause” and “For the victims you can pen me ambassador and the embassy.” It is a triumphant introduction to the difficult material tackled in his album and a promise dutifully fulfilled by the end.

As Kollin explains, the ordering of songs is deliberate. From his first written song “Ginger Ale” to the song titled the name of his next album “New Man,” “Ginger Ale” concludes with “Withered,” a song written by his late uncle Nathan Slade, a former member of the band Atomship, who had passed away after an injury sustained during Hurricane Katrina. Kollin’s lyrics have evolved over the years, and in this sense “Ginger Ale” is like a bildungsroman. Despite their evolution, his newer lyrics maintain the charged emotions of his first written words.

Listen to Ginger Ale on Soundcloud, iTunes, or Spotify. Find lyrics on Genius.