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! :D 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.