In her first album as Danz CM and third studio album overall, Danielle Johnson sets aside her past and peers into a hopeful future on the retro-futuristic, ‘The Absurdity of Human Existence.’
On December 3rd, 2020, Danielle Johnson explained in a detailed Facebook post why she changed her stage name from Computer Magic to Danz CM. For some artists, re-branding is a way to forge a fresh career path. But for Johnson, it was more personal. The new moniker represents a whole new Johnson. As she stated, Computer Magic “represent(ed) a period in my life (mostly) where I was really unsure of myself.” Danz CM, meanwhile, is “just me growing” and outgrowing “the shy bedroom pop girl a long time ago.”
The self-confidence struggles were reflected on her brilliant sci-fi second album, Danz, on which Johnson represented herself as a cyborg grappling with two identities. Like Rachel from Blade Runner, she believed she was human on the inside with a replicant exterior. But unlike the film’s unexpected heroine, Johnson could transform and blossom. She could peel away her organic shell to reveal her true self. She achieves this with aplomb on her third studio album, The Absurdity of Human Existence.
Johnson’s synth-heavy approach remains, though she probes darker spaces and more cinematic arenas than before to reflect her journey. Her story is told in two parts: the first is her struggle to be herself. Opener “Idea of You” immediately dives into Johnson’s transformation process. Through a pulsating, synthwave soundscape, she explains how moving forward has been difficult. On the one hand, she proclaims, “I don’t want to fall in love with an idea.“ On the other hand, she asks, “Why is it so hard for me to cut these ties?” as she attempts to separate herself from her previous life form.
The solemn, futuristic ballad, “Breaking Point”, further accentuates her internal battle. With an icy delivery she sings, “I don’t want to break / But I don’t know how much more.” What awaits her if she sheds her shell? Her contemplation is highlighted on the addictive electro-rocker, “Something More.” Bubbling synths, stuttering rhythms, and a slight sizzle of electric guitar form the backdrop to Johnson’s musings:
“Maybe go back to college
So you can work in a cubicle
You know like hell that doesn’t fucking suit you
Cause you need
And that something more is answered on “My Other Self.” This cosmic dazzler finds Johnson bidding adieu to Computer Magic and fully welcoming Danz CM. “You’re just a distraction from myself,”, she states while pushing her past aside.
The other half of the album focuses on Johnson’s interactions with people both as Computer Magic and Danz CM. On the stark yet stunning, “Domino,” Johnson recalls a toxic relationship where she gives all while the other takes and leaves. Her voice is brittle yet powerful, asking:
Over again, you always win
When you just push me away like a domino
Pushing everyone away around you?”
Her confidence abounds on the disco dazzler, “Don’t Stop.” On its surface the track concerns a connection with someone else. But dig deeper and you find that connection is internal. Meanwhile the retro-futuristic “I Don’t Need a Hero” is Danz CM’s true welcoming party. Johnson’s vocals float atop deep bass and dark synths to proclaim she will no longer hide or seek rescue. She has done that all her own.
Now that she has been liberated, she realizes no one needs saving. The critical need that she reveals on the album closer, “Human Existence,” is for human connection. Her words come from a self-assured individual who is ready to be embraced as part of a meaningful union:
“You can’t save me
I can’t save you
But I can hold you closely
And you can hold me too”
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