The Lowdown: The rivalry between the Gallagher brothers is one of music’s most infamous, and it’s something neither brother seems able to walk away from regardless of how hard they try. Former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher went directly from the band’s 2009 breakup into fronting Beady Eye, but it wasn’t until he launched his solo career that he regained focus. The 2017 release of his debut, As You Were, tapped into the nostalgia vein for Oasis fans and was strong, despite a few fumbles. On his follow-up, Why Me? Why Not., Gallagher embraces his songwriting limits and enlists help for each song, resulting in an 11-track album brimming with single-worthy numbers.
The Good: 2017’s As You Were was Gallagher’s first serious approach to songwriting and performing with musicians outside his Oasis circle of trust. As Gallagher describes in a documentary released earlier this month, he was going through a divorce before his solo launch and still dealing with the aftershocks of Oasis’ dissolution. The recording studio turned out to be the perfect place to untangle all those contemplations. He took risks on As You Were , knowing he alone would shoulder the weight of his listeners’ responses.
The success of his first album gave Gallagher the validation he needed to move forward. He picks up where he left off on Why Me? Why Not., owning up to what he believed the last album’s weaknesses were and digging deeper into what he thought worked. Small flourishes pay homage to his Beatles influences in “Meadow” and the title track’s “Sgt. Pepper”-esque introduction, but he avoids direct lyrical references to the Fab Four this time around. This growth paired with his decision to tackle writing with producers Andrew Wyatt and Greg Kurstin (both of whom worked with him on As You Were) shows Gallagher maturing as a songwriter, paying tribute to his heroes instead of leaning on them and putting faith in his co-writers to guide him.
Gallagher pays close attention to this album’s production, giving his string section room to breathe in “Gone” and swapping drums for keys on the driving “Halo”. His voice is what glues the pieces together, a reminder of his past work and the music that formed him. As new as Why Me? Why Not. is for Gallagher, the album is from its building blocks to its delivery a callback to the rock tradition that first attracted his early fans and has an opportunity now to reach a new generation of listeners.
The Bad: Taking the solo dive was a gamble for Gallagher personally, but this album doesn’t show him risking much musically. This strategy works now, but it’s not difficult to imagine a time in which Gallagher sticking with what’s comfortable may lead to future songs blending together. The unfortunate undercurrent to all questions of risk-taking is not just what momentum Gallagher could lose but what his brother will think if he stumbles. Professionally, Gallagher could recover from a bad album — but the threat of giving his ex-bandmate any ammunition might be a chance Gallagher isn’t willing to take.
The Verdict: Gallagher embraces acceptance on a deeper level with this album than we’ve seen before; he’s game for going all in on “Now That I’ve Found You”, but he also displays the power of reflection on “Once” and “Alright Now”. Why Me? Why Not. revels in the joy Gallagher seems to feel whenever he makes music, an album written by an experienced artist who’s determined to prove the fun doesn’t have to end with Act One.
Essential Tracks: “One of Us”, “Now That I’ve Found You”, and “Why Me Why Not”