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Sunday, March 3, 2024
The Observer

Finstas and rap music: Yung Lean as Jonatan Leandoer127

Cristina Interiano | The Observer
Cristina Interiano | The Observer

Jonatan Aron Leandoer Håstad’s latest album, “Nectar,” is to his musical career what a finsta is to a rinsta. 

For readers without Instagram accounts, let me explain: the “finsta” is the latest social media trend that has captured the hearts of young people everywhere. Finsta, an abbreviated term for “fake Instagram,” stands in contrast to the “rinsta,” or “real Instagram.” On a rinsta, there’s a pressure to keep up a certain clean-and-neat public appearance to your followers, some of whom may be co-workers or employers.

On a finsta, however, things are much different.

Finstas often involve goofy usernames like “young_juul_lord” or “mattysmokes,” and finsta posts are usually funny, dumb, inappropriate or some mix of the three — basically, anything a person would not want to share with their hundreds of rinsta followers. Finstas normally have a small number of followers — usually only close friends — compared with a rinsta, which could have followers in the hundreds or thousands. In essence, finstas provide an important outlet for nonsensical personal expression away from the critical eye of the masses — unless, of course, a finsta post is screenshotted. But that’s a different story.

For Jonatan Aron Leandoer Håstad, his rap persona, Yung Lean, was his rinsta. As Yung Lean, the 22-year-old Swedish rapper was the forerunner of the “sad boy” or cloud-rap genre. His brand of hazy, melancholic music garnered respect from Frank Ocean, earned him a hit with the track “Red Bottom Sky” and inspired a number of other artists to push the boundaries of rap such as bladee, Pouya and $uicideboy$.

But along with this success, Yung Lean simultaneously acquired an image to maintain — one of drugs, darkness and depression — and expectations to meet. So, in an effort to find an outlet for personal expression without the weight of being Yung Lean, Håstad adopted a “finsta,” so to speak: a new name, Jonatan Leandoer127, and a new genre of music. 

“Nectar,” which Håstad released in January of 2019 under the name Jonatan Leandoer127, is by no means a rap album. Stylistically, it differs sharply from all of Håstad’s work as Yung Lean. The album lies somewhere between a number of genres, incorporating elements of indie, art and punk rock, country and folk. “Tangerine Warrior (Freestyle),” which is not a freestyle in the traditional sense, beautifully transitions from riotous trumpets to a somber piano outro.

In the same album, “Off With Their Heads” sounds like an early-00’s indie-rock song, with loud drums and a reverb heavy guitar. On the track, and against the instrumental backdrop, Håstad’s writing shines in a way that it didn’t on his work as Yung Lean. “Tales from unknown rabbits were the only thing you can see/And they jumped across like small, small town politicians trying to get their word across without using any social media or anything,” he rambles in his customary monotone and removed style.

His lyrics maintain the darker, dismal themes found on Yung Lean tracks, but the same themes layered over upbeat instrumentals carry a different meaning. “Take this key and take me to the end/Lugubrious treason, trench coats out of town” off “Wooden Girl” and “Who’s the man with the sapphire eyes/Who used to watch me in my room at night?/Spider arms, black teeth and eyes/Make me wanna kill ’em all somehow” off “My Guardian” stick out as particularly icy verses.

“Nectar” is a lot like a finsta post: unpolished and a little rough around the edges. Nevertheless, it’s still worthy of acclaim. It finds Håstad exploring a different direction, free from the constraints of the Yung Lean name and persona, and doing it well. Jonatan Leandoer127 may always come second to Yung Lean and remain Håstad’s finsta — but if he ever decided to switch things up, it could serve as a very exciting rinsta. 

Artist: Jonatan Leandoer127

Album: Nectar

Label: YEAR001

Favorite Tracks: “Off With Their Heads,” “Wooden Girl,” “Tangerine Warrior (Freestyle)”

If You Like: Yung Lean, Neutral Milk Hotel, Pavement

Shamrocks: 3.5 out of 5