The above was the title (minus the ‘well,maybe’) that came up during my discussion with Trace on writing an article about David and his now released record ‘Begin’. Frankly I thought it was a smashing title to what I expected would be an article full of praise and accolades to David’s music. The tracks that he chose to tackle on the record is some of music industry’s giants and ones that I connected with in a big way when they first came out. So I was really eager to listen to how the Archuleta would stamp his particular mark on them. After all he has left us slack jawed many a times with his wonderful handling of covers.
Firstly the positives – his voice. There can be no mistaking David’s voice for any other in the music scene today. It is unique and quite singular in its texture and timbre – and I’m not saying this because I’m a fan. You line him up against a chorus of vocalists and that voice will stand out maybe not in terms of volume and power but its special qualities will definitely separate him from the rest. And his voice is in fine form on this record. Crystal clear and strong although I feel that in the context of the themes and styles of the songs on the album, his voice comes across as more of a diamond in the rough. The producer has not managed to peel back the layers to reveal the true brilliance beneath – maybe David himself has a share in the blame. I feel that for the most part he has held back and chosen to play it safe and not gone out on a limb so to speak as far as his vocal styling is concerned.
After reading the many expressions of awe and appreciation for the record by fans here and elsewhere I am in trepidation and loathe to take my review further because other than the aforementioned I don’t have much positives to add – I can almost see the daggers being drawn! 😀 I’m pretty sure more than a pound of my flesh will be exacted once this review is through.
Nevertheless forge on I will.
The delivery and interpretation of the songs themselves, (which has always been one of David’s strong suits) has left me feeling perplexed. For the most part they’re rather tame and …dare I say it…lackluster? Honestly only 2 songs were exceptionally done: Pride (in the name of love) and Everybody Hurts. The former is one of U2’s classics and it has been covered by a number of artists, John Legend being one of them. Surprisingly and pleasantly I might add, David has chosen to keep to the original tempo of the song and handled it very admirably. I expected him to tone it down a notch because it is a rock tune after all. However the rock edge of the song, although a bit smoothed over with pop overtones, didn’t seem to faze David and he sailed through the gritty parts quite well.
I changed my mind about ‘Everybody Hurts’ when the music video debuted. Somehow when a song is embellished by visuals, its emotional impact is enhanced. Also I suspect it’s a different version of David’s vocals that’s been used for the video. I’ve been comparing the video sound track and the song on the CD and, to me, there is a distinct difference between the two. The singing in the video is far more intense and heartfelt. It is what I would expect from David whereas the vocals on the final CD feels lukewarm in contrast.
I’m not bowled over by the rest of the tracks, although they’re pleasant enough to listen to. This is what I find strange about the record. I expected some amazing personalization on songs like ‘Beautiful’, ‘Angels’, ‘True Colors’ and ‘BOTW’ – songs that have been turned into iconic anthems by their original singers but David has chosen to deliver them in a very straight forward, unadventurous manner almost karaoke like and that to me is a major disappointment. Maybe his respect for their iconic status has convinced him to treat them with deference and not mix it up too much. Still I come away feeling rather unmoved with his handling of these songs.
I’m not a fan of the overall tone of the CD as well. It’s very solemn and melancholic almost like a religious ode rather than a pop record. Did his impending mission to Chile play a part in setting the tone of ‘Begin’?
I guess I’m the lone wolf in my assessment of ‘Begin’; an outcast, contrarian and definitely “not wisely unique”, as I was so succinctly told ;-), and my only defense is my sky high (maybe unrealistic) expectations of David whenever he opens his mouth to sing. He has turned me into jelly so often in the past with his vocal talents that I always expect to be swept off my feet every time (and there are abundant examples of this).
Is that too much to ask for? Am I being unfair and overly demanding? Do I have to apologize for it? I think not as I have every conviction that David Archuleta is far, far better than this.
Final thoughts: This isn’t altogether a bad effort, there are good moments, pleasant surprises but overall it feels like a rising crescendo that promises so much but never quite reaches its peak and you’re left hanging waiting for more.
When I heard that David’s 4th studio album ‘Begin’ (I don’t consider ‘Forevermore’ to be an official David Archuleta album) was to be released this August a song with this word in the title immediately sprang to mind.
I don’t suppose many of you would know about this song. I’m not trying to insult anyone here but the song was written in the 1930s before any of you (me included) were born. The beauty of the song lies in it’s timelessness and the many interpretations of the word ‘Beguine’ which the songwriter has cleverly alluded to in it’s melody, thematic elements and lyrics. It also sounds as good today as it did back in the 1930s. This is a more recent version of the song by Michael Buble:
I find the word ‘Beguine’ intriguing because of it’s many meanings; it’s the name of a ballroom dance that originated from the West Indies, it’s the name of a sisterhood of religious women that, although not particularly affiliated to any religious order, leads a very austere life, it’s also the name of music written in the bolero rhythm and also appropriately rhymes with the word ‘Begin’.
But the definition that I like the most comes from the French word which is also spelled ‘Beguine’ which means infatuation or flirtation.
The song ‘Begin the Beguine’ often talks of beginning something and also reminiscing about something that’s lost. For those who are more romantically inclined it’s a song of lost love and what could have been. It has a very wistful feeling to it – a memory of something that’s sweet and nostalgic tinged with regret for not having done more and yet reluctant to rekindle the fire:
What moments divine, what rapture serene,
Till clouds came along to disperse the joys we had tasted,
And now when I hear people curse the chance that was wasted,
I know but too well what they mean;
It’s probably true to say that I’ve lost a bit of my ‘infatuation’ with David lately because I feel that he has not applied himself to his craft with enough artistic integrity. His more current musical endeavours comes across as far less ‘involved’ and frankly, plain lazy. It’s disappointing and perplexing to say the least. I find it hard to imagine the possibility that he could ever lack the inner pride to strive to create something noteworthy in his chosen field in which I feel he has ample talent to leave a significant imprint.
It feels like he is more often ruled by his heart than by his head, which is not always bad I suppose if you’re talking about helping a fellow human being, but in one’s chosen work one must have that singular pride and integrity, an unyielding compulsion to make sure that it’s done well. It doesn’t matter what type of effort you put forth – how and what we create makes a big statement about who we are. It’s a reflection of our character – whether we have pride in our work or are we just going through the motions and hoping for the best? Would we expect a Leonardo Da Vinci to be anything less than distinctive? Or a Picasso to be dull and uninspiring?
But I am prepared to throw caution to the wind and trust that David has expended more effort in this forthcoming CD. I am ready to be ‘bewitched, beguiled and bewildered’ once more for a talent and a voice that deserves to be better represented. So like the song says ‘begin the beguine’ and lets be reminded of the past which once promised so much and hope that the magic and allure is still there. I want that magic again.
“And it’s no sacrifice
Just a simple word
It’s two hearts living
In two separate worlds”
In 1989 Bernie Taupin wrote these words to Elton John’s ‘Sacrifice‘, one of their most successful collaborations. It became Elton’s 1st ever number one song in the charts – which is hugely surprising considering the amazing success that Elton had up to that point.
The song is about the end of a relationship where the couple involved just could not come to terms with each other even though you get the feeling that their love for each other is not the real issue. The end is as inevitable as it is painful and the sacrifice in this case is the child that they have.
The thing that surprised me the most is the music video for the song in which the woman seems to be the one walking out of the relationship leaving the daughter with the man. Usually it’s the other way around. The premise is that she made the conscious decision to ‘sacrifice’ her child in pursuit of her own dreams. A case of marrying too young perhaps?
Whatever the case may be, it takes a lot of conviction – rightly or wrongly – to leave behind one’s family in pursuit of a greater goal. In Elton’s video we may feel less charitable towards the woman who abandoned her marriage for her career leaving the husband to care for their child in less than splendid surroundings.
But what if the driving force is not career, money, fame but an entire nation and its people? Would anyone of us walk away from all that we love and cherish for a higher cause and perhaps even greater love?
Such is the case with Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma. Her identification with being a Burmese is so profound and deeply ingrained that she walked away from all that she held dear for the sake of her country. She endured more than 2 decades of incarceration, loneliness and isolation in her steely defiance of Burma’s autocratic military regime. All the while her husband and 2 sons were a world away in England not knowing when and if they would ever see her again.
As it turns out Aung San Suu Kyi would never see her husband alive again as he died of cancer in 1999. Even then she made the momentous decision not to attend his funeral for fear that she would never be allowed back into Burma again should she leave the country. The decision must have been a painful one to make and by some accounts has caused a strain in the relationship between Suu Kyi and her eldest son Alexander. Indeed many would debate the choices that she has made in her life and the repercussions that they have wrought.
What would we do if we were faced with such a situation? Would we place king and country above our personal fulfillment if we were to be tested in the same way? Would we be willing to endure a lifelong separation from our family in the service of a cause that we deem to be more noble?
And let’s not forget Michael Aris, Aung San Suu Kyi’s husband, who also put aside his personal happiness in support of his wife and the cause she was fighting for. Two people deeply in love with a growing family but choosing to forsake it all because a country demanded it. How many of us would take the same path?
If we want our children to have role models I would recommend that we look no further than these two amazing people. Theirs is an extraordinary love story darkened by sacrifice, separation and ultimately heartache. Their selflessness has exacted a heavy toll. They went down the road far less traveled in defense of their principles and values in order that a whole nation and it’s people may one day live a life that is democratic, just and free.
Aung San Suu Kyi, a daughter, wife, mother and now political leader struggling against a repressive regime with nothing more than her courage, convictions and the simple belief that hers is a just cause. The human spirit is truly an amazing force for it can prevail against the most brutal injustice and oppression. The example of Aung San Suu Kyi is a powerful lesson for all of us, in particular our children, to learn
Happy Mother’s Day to all you mums out there (and Dads) who may not be faced with issues as daunting as Aung San Suu Kyi but are in your own ways teaching your children about what it means to stand up for your beliefs in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and that might is not necessarily right.
This is side B of an imaginary album by David Archuleta of which I have been appointed the producer (yeah right! 🙂 ).
There are literally dozens of songs that David has sung in public through the last few years and it’s quite impossible to include them all in one album so I have chosen these songs because they are the ones that feel the most personal and highlight events that mean the most to David in my opinion.
WHEN YOU SAY YOU LOVE ME: During David’s AI days he was often described (and not too kindly) as a Josh Groban-esque type of singer – good for ballads and not too much else. Well David decided to give his critics what they wanted and boy what a magnificent job he did! Especially on opening night of the AI tour in Arizona. For those of you who wish to go down memory lane and get a taste of that virtuoso performance here’s the link: http://youtu.be/uSJfU9yk1bw
STOMPING THE ROSES: This is one of my favourite David songs in which he sounds off on the various aspects in his life that he’s not too happy about. A surprising song from David based on his non-confrontational character.
WHO I AM: Based on the recent events in his life I feel this song is perhaps David’s way of hinting about his future trajectory; sort of testing the waters and deciding on the next steps – a song about self – discovery.
FALLING: This is perhaps David’s most mature song framed with dark themes of hopelessness and desperation. I think David is not necessarily talking about himself here but a close friend who is going through a troubled period and willing to lay bare the emotional wounds and traumas in his/her life.
I AM NOT A ROBOT: This is by Marina and the Diamonds and was chosen by David as his song of the week back in April 2010 during that infamous incident at a night club where he went to support Charice who was performing. Twitterverse went into hyperdrive the minute he was spotted at the club. Subsequent attempts by David to explain why he was there led to a firestorm of condemnation by the LGBT community and it was telling that David immediately featured this song in his video blog.
SOMEBODY OUT THERE: It’s especially magical and poignant when a song is centered around David’s voice with it’s clear, crisp and soulful tones; it reverberates and rings with a stark honesty that’s quite unlike any of his other songs that I’ve come across. And this is none more evident than in “Somebody Out There” where the promise of hope, comfort and salvation is so masterfully conveyed by David.
DON’T LET THE SUN GO DOWN ON ME: I feel that this was David’s **ss off song on AI7. It was his last moments on the show and he wanted to vent his frustrations and irritation and sign off in a big way. Summoning all the emotions he was feeling he gave a heated delivery that was stunning.
I would also include a cover for David in the album which would test his interpretive abilities and resonate with his personal character and beliefs.
DAUGHTERS: Won the Song of the Year Grammy for John Mayer in 2005. This song is a plea of sorts to fathers to treat their daughters well as the writer feels that the father/daughter dynamic would bear consequences on their daughters’ future relationships with men.
So that’s it my choice of songs as a producer on David’s ‘upcoming’ album. A concept album of David standards and covers that tries to showcase the more significant milestones in David’s journey so far in the music industry.
What would be your choices if given the chance to produce David’s next album?
How do you adequately pay tribute to a singer that has such a hold of your senses when so much has been written about him already? How do you do justice to the exceptional vocal magic that he possesses? And how do you articulate the many high points and countless hours of pleasure that his singing brought?. Worse of all how do you bid a proper goodbye – albeit for a short while – to such a wonderful emissary both of music and in personal character – an ambassador who has positively touched so many lives not through trashy, over the top buffoonery but simply by being himself?
It is quite impossible to effectively wrap all that has happened into one neat package. There are just too many instances, images and moments that are precious and unforgettable to say definitively that any one of them defines the special connections that David has forged with us. The tapestry of David’s journey with his fans all these years does not easily lend itself to being woven.
I suppose the only meaningful way to pay homage to what David has meant to us is through his music. And in this, there is one piece of music that really stands out for me which – with its message – I think is a very fitting expression of what has transpired in recent days.
I don’t know whether it was by intent or by accident but for one brief 3 minute interval in the past the clueless folks at American Idol somehow got David. They understood him and saw where he was coming from and it resulted in a sublime recording in the studio version of ‘Think of Me‘. This song as all of you must recall was during Andrew Llyod Webber week on American Idol where David and his fellow contestants had to tackle stage musical numbers. It is an iconic number from The Phantom Of The Opera and performed by a female soprano.
But in David’s tender male tenor voice the song has been given a smooth contemporary pop feel. It’s evocative without being sappy, the emotional impact is sustained without the histrionics of lesser vocalists and although the arrangement is simple the vocals are no less powerful. It was such a mature performance – far more than his 17 years at that time. It’s a travesty that he has not been given more credit than he deserved for his beautiful interpretation of a classic.
It is also a shame that he has never sung this song in public since he graduated from American Idol. I hope that in the next 2 years as he embarks on his mission he will revisit some of his past performances and realize that in this song he really came into his own and displayed the potent vocal talent that has not surfaced much since then – largely due to the quality of material that he has had to deal with. In this rendition he truly lived up to his reputation of someone ‘born to sing‘. I hope that somehow David will find that same voice again, or at least some producer with a keen ear, in the near future as it is a shining example of his ability to weave pure gold out of hay.
Recall those days, Look back on all those times
Think of the things we’ll never do
There will never be a day when we won’t think of you..
Hasta leugo David…. for now.