ravi lad has a lot to be proud of on “proud”
Halfway through his debut single “proud,” there’s a moment where newcomer ravi lad stops, if only for a second, and asks himself a simple question about his pursuit of music. “Am I fine, or should I give it a try?”
For lad and many other Asian American creatives, there comes a point in their lives when that question inevitably crosses their minds. Oftentimes stuck between pursuing passion and pursuing a high-paying “traditional” career (see: doctor, lawyer, businessman), many first and second generation Asian Americans find themselves at a crossroads when it comes to choosing a future for themselves. Add to that the incessant pressure from overbearing parents and you’ll find that a lot will choose to opt for that “safer” option at the price of their own happiness. On “proud,” that internal struggle is made loud and clear.
As a petroleum engineer by day and musician by night, ravi lad (stylized with all lowercase letters) tells that story in a way that pulls on your heartstrings. A confessional, biographical pop song, “proud” is lad’s way of exploring the musical world from his unique lens. Worked into the very fiber of “proud” are lyrical snippets of the artist’s own life, ranging from advice that he’s been given (“You’ve gotta go to school and bring back all straight A’s / Remember don’t eat meat and pray every day / Stick to your path in your lane”) to the eventual promise of happiness if he just sticks to his parent’s pre-determined plan… and his eventual rejection of it. lad, who wrote and produced the song by himself, pulls out all of the stops for his first release. Multiple tempo shifts cause lad to deftly rap over ebbing beats. A nonsensical singalong chorus (“La-mm-da-daa”) comes out of nowhere to add levity to the song before it becomes too introspective. The emotional weight of “proud” is heartbreaking and moving (especially in the last few lines), making it a bit hard not to get choked up at the way that he sings his words.
“proud” therefore becomes a difficult, yet subtle act of defiance guided along by electropop kickdrums, pianos, and strings. Surprisingly remaining largely upbeat even given the heavily personal subject matter, lad’s song is a bold first step towards reinventing himself.
But perhaps more than anything, “proud” powerfully pleads the case of his musicianship to the people that matter the most to him–and more importantly, himself.