I was all ready to rain cold showers on David’s sophomore pop album based on the early leaks of some of the songs. After a year of anticipation fueled by a steady stream of tweets regarding songwriting collaborations my expectations were, perhaps unfairly, driven up a few degrees above normal. The pulse was racing and it was all I could do to stop myself from listening to the AOL stream of the album. After listening to the entire album I’m not completely bowled over by TOSOD but there are exceptional moments.
The one element that stands out for me, as usual, is David’s scrumptious (Trace’s description 🙂 ) voice. Having more time to lay down his vocals for the songs, it is creamy, clear, crisp and strikes the right emotional chords. There isn’t any strain to his delivery – not any that I can detect anyway. The falsettos are strong, sustained and combined with his customary, emotion-laden tenor, the songs are given it’s unique Archuleta character. David has crafted an album that has set him apart from other ‘teen sensations’ currently clogging up the music market. Not for him the syrupy, lovey-dovey, boy-meets-girl-boy-loses-girl scenarios but thankfully very mature themes that don’t come across as preachy or old. In this album David has shown admirable musical growth compared to his debut effort. But perhaps that could not be his fault entirely as it was basically a rush job, with recording sessions squeezed in between pit stops during the American Idol tour. He was probably thrown songs left, right and center and told to “Here sing this or that.”
But given more time to lay down his own musical pedigree, David has come up with a more nuanced effort. There’s more of the man in the songs. It’s interesting that I’m also reading his memoir of sorts while listening to TOSOD. Many of the running themes in the book has it’s parallel in the album like: insecurity, self-doubt, perseverance, gratitude and the ubiquitous ‘half full rather than half empty glass’. In this sense there’s no new discovery into the inner motivations of the man; we’ve heard and read it all. Songs that play on these themes are TOSOD, Good Place, Elevator, Parachutes and Airplanes, Things Are Gonna Get Better, Complain, SBL.
My favourite tracks though are MKOP, Who I Am, Stomping The Roses, Falling Stars and an honourable mention for Look Around. These are my favourite because I feel they are the most intimate and closest to providing insights about the singer:
Falling Stars – Although you won’t find David shouting from the roof tops for all to hear, I’m pretty sure for a sensitive soul like his, his parents’ breakup must have affected him somehow. After all this is one recurring declaration in his book – that family is all important and it is the one unchanging factor in the tumult that is his life at the moment. So I think in his oblique way he’s using this song to address the issue of his parents’ divorce:
“When you forget me
And you don’t remember my name
Not even a memory, somewhere in the back of your brain
I won’t be offended cos I always knew that the day
Would come when I’m not enough to make you stay
You tell me it’s not possible, no way that we could break
But nothing is logical believe me”
The last refrain “you are so beautiful…yeah” is really lovely.
Who I Am – David may be growing up but he’s still a work in progress by most reckoning and I think he recognizes that about himself. There are moments when I’m sure he feels completely lost and just wants to get off the train and take a breather even to the point of “…I don’t care if Jeff Fenster is calling” – a cheeky reference to his A&R guy. A little rebellion going on here.
My Kind Of Perfect – Many a time questions about his love life has been asked and David has taken pains to treat such queries with barely concealed restrain and patience, always framing his answers with good humor. But with this song, I feel that he has also begun to ask himself the same questions:
I know, I know she’s gotta be out there
Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m right
Maybe I just let you walk by….maybe I’ve known you all my life
Will I turn the corner and see my future in a beautiful face?
They say give it time and it will fall in line
But I keep wondering how and why I haven’t met you
The vocals are spot on with just the right amount of melancholy longing and I can really see him in his quiet moments wondering about that special one out there.
Stomping The Roses – this is the one song that surprises me the most as it’s the closest that I have seen or heard David raging against some particular situation in his life. The guitar driven beat of the song – another surprise as it’s pretty close to a rock arrangement – just adds to the fire. I really wonder what he means by “the roses” , “a bad business” and did he actually accuse someone of being childish? :
“When you were younger, did it occur to you 10 years from then you’d act the same age” Whoa those are strong words for David Archuleta! And who exactly is he trying to “carry?”
The lyrics are open to interpretation and it’s the major strength of the song together with David’s ‘enraged’ vocals although I thought he should have ratcheted up the heat a little more.
Look Around – Although this could be lumped together with the other positive, count-your-blessings message songs “paint it over if your world is gray, cut the ribbon if it starts to fray.” I like it for it’s catchy melody, beat and quirky instrumentation that sounds like a synthesized xylophone. It’s a highly danceable and radio friendly song – much more so than Elevator.
In the final analysis, there is no one truly outstanding track on the album and it cannot be said to be a career defining collection but taken as a whole the album is a positive step for David in the right direction. These are his ‘babies‘ and that alone makes it far more satisfying than his debut album and I will certainly give it more spins. The underlying character is tentatively revealed as another layer is peeled back. It will differentiate him from the formulaic, powder puff confectionery of other young artists of his generation as it lays the foundation for more of such intimate revelations in future albums.