Ruel doesn’t shy away from the big questions.
Ruel Vincent van Dijk makes it easy on us and goes by Ruel. A popstar from the other side of the planet, he started his music career at 13 years old, making it easy to draw a parallel to America’s wunderkind counterpart Justin Bieber. Unlike Bieber’s youthful vocals, Ruel has a voice that is often remarked as possessing a gravelly tone that exceeds the bounds of adolescence. With the palatable blond appeal of a teen heartthrob, it’s easy to see why he just sold out his entire Australian Tour.
It’s his astonishing songwriting ability that draws in an audience more varied than the boy band market, touching middle schoolers and 30 year olds uniformly. In his 2019 EP Free Time, Ruel contemplates the limits of technology in its capacity to help us relate. For music video for Face To Face, Ruel chases his love interest’s attention online only to end up throwing his phone in frustration after confronting the reality of a fantasy. Revealing a depth well beyond his 16 years, new release Real Thing is both a love song and an observation of an increasingly mechanized culture.
Doing the robot with dedication, Ruel is a convincing electronic public servant carrying out his duties as a dog walker in a police state. This sci-fi story is told with picturesque cinematography and minute details that create a world which anything but synthesized. Ruel’s track suit uniform is emblazoned with the brand “RE AI,” a nod to both the title track and his quest for authenticity. Shown skillfully through Ruel-as-a-robot’s long and self appraising gaze into his own reflection, he signals a self-awareness not easily expressed by his plastic face. His search eventually leads him to defy the world he was created to serve by attempting the daring rescue of a free-thinker - who isn’t what she seems. When everything is automated, how can you tell what’s real?