BEGIN. with @Archugeezer

Where to BEGIN.

I love David Archuleta’s new album, BEGIN. I love it! I really love it! Oh, did I say that already? Well, I love it a lot — every hook, line and hemidemisemiquaver.

More later.

First, I need a favor. Please permit me to segue onto my soapbox with a related pet peeve and a true confession: I have a problem with criticism. I have a problem both in receiving criticism and watching others unload it at will. Chalk it up to flaws in my psychological makeup, or something as simple as being oversensitive, but the issue remains.

I especially have a problem with the hackneyed criticism hurled at professional artists — actors, musicians, painters, and the like — earnest folks whose years of hard work reflect something quite personal, and who lay themselves bare to share it.

In my perfect world, there is a positive, organic approach to all art. You like it? Say so. Go there; embrace it, enjoy it, and support it. Hate it? Don’t do any of those things. The result is a natural “separation” that allows the cream to rise to the top without souring the milk.

Alas, my perfect world is still in the development stages; we are not ready. There will always be a need for qualified critics as long as our culture continues to confuse artistic merit with money.

My real issue may rest with the proliferation of self-proclaimed art critics who present their subjective opinions as gospel truth. In academia, art criticism is considered to be a discipline, expertise learned and earned. On the Internet (and in a few other places), criticism seems to be everyone’s right, much of it without the slightest regard for any discipline at all.

Where else does this happen? Not even with my lowly job. Outside of competitions organized for the exact purpose of ranking participants, I see no such critiques in any other profession. Just imagine if all careers were subject to the kind of narrow-vision nitpicking suffered by artists:

• It was another embarrassing CPA moment for Jones & Jones. The report was accurate, as expected, but there were rumors the presentation folder had a tiny water stain on the corner. Unprofessional, if true. In the end, the client was displeased with his financial analysis. This was not the fault of the accountant of course, but it made for a bad showing all around.  -2 1/2 stars

• The ballgame was mediocre at best, and Smith was unimpressive with his slide into first base. He appeared to be safe, but his style was way off. What a disappointment for fans! Smith continued to make matters worse when he carried a disgruntled look on his face throughout the inning. The unsightly display of grass stains on his uniform did not help either. Grade C-

• Girly Apparel’s big sale is a big flop. Overproduced displays make it difficult to chat with friends in the aisles. Closeout goods disappear quickly, and clerks are unfriendly to customers who cut in line to pay for them. Opening day was marred by one woman who was escorted out after yelling, “Your dress department sucks!” This sale is a dud for shoppers. Don’t waste your time.

Like I said, “flaws in my psychological makeup.” End of rant. Back to BEGIN.

Having lived in an anti-pop culture cave for a couple of decades, I did not know some of the songs on the album. However, I think this was ultimately to my advantage, as I was not hung up on the familiarity of the original vocals and/or original song production. I took the music just as it came, the way David sang it, the way I heard it. For good or bad, comments mentioning “not the same” had no bearing for me. They’re all David’s songs now.

My favorite? To be honest, it varies. The only thing close to an indicator is the number of plays on my iTunes playlist, with the top three in this order: Broken, Somewhere Only We Know, and Beautiful. The other songs have counts so close, there is no clear favorite. The real winner on that iTunes page is the repeat button.

Beautiful

Beautiful is… well, beautiful. I have never been a fan of melisma, and I usually ascribed its overuse to singers in search of a melody. That was before David of course. He uses the technique with artistic restraint, and his timing is perfect here. On a side note, we might want to think about a fundraiser to insure the immortalization of the Baby Growl.

Somewhere Only We Know

“I’m getting old and I need something to rely on.” I have been relying on this song for days now, easily one of my favorites. I am drawn in by David’s gorgeous vocals as he emos his way into the chorus—plaintive but persuasive. His voice travels over the driving rhythm like he knows exactly what he needs. Wow.

Everybody Hurts

Universal truth in this song. Listen to how it begins with despair and ends with hope. It triumphs with that unique cry in David’s voice, because he cries for all of us. When he drops to his lower register to sing, “Hang on,” the message is personal; and if you happen to need added emphasis: “NO, NO, NO, you’re not alone!”

Angel

Ethereal. Loving. Peaceful. For the chorus, David’s voice arrives as if on “gossamer wings” (thank you, Cole Porter), and we are instantly soothed. Immerse yourself. An angelic rendition of heavenly comfort.

Don’t Give Up

Abject misery: “No one wants you when you lose.” But it doesn’t have to be that way. Libbie Linton’s voice is both a complement and a contrast to the vocal textures we hear from David. I like the repeated and haunting plea of “don’t give up,” especially at the end when David joins in. This song has really grown on me and is oddly calming in spite of the painful lyrics.

Bridge Over Troubled Water

David Archuleta really knows how to grow a song, doesn’t he? Choose a tender start, nourish it with plenty of soul and sunshine, and then hear it blossom. Spectacular! The first time I heard this song, I almost did a swoon dive off my chair! Don’t you let it happen; you might miss the David/David duet. And then there is this: “I will comfort youuuoooo…” You just did, David, you just did.

Broken

TOfan’s insightful review of this original song includes the word “stunning,” which describes exactly what comes to my mind each time I listen. David pulls out all the stops vocally, and does it brilliantly. We already know of his incredible capacity for compassion, especially toward children. That he can marry that attribute to the beautiful melody he has created is simply remarkable.

True Colors

I love the easy-breezy vocal approach David takes in this song, combined with the nearly-jazzy feel used to deliver the message and keep it moving. Like a true friend, David is there to cheer you up, give you encouragement, and then to convince you to simply be yourself, no apologies necessary. He loves you just the way you are; and if that doesn’t get your day going, have another listen.

Pride (in the name of love)

Whenever I get to this track, it always happens: I get a big grin on my face. I can’t help it. David is rocking it out, and I am rocking with him. We’re like a new band—Old Lady and the artist formerly known as Ballad Boy. Edgy stuff! David sings in the name of love, so it fits right in. How much fun will this be at a concert? How far would you drive to hear the “Memphis sky” notes in person? See ya there!

Be Still My Soul

I am very familiar with this old Christian hymn. After the original German text was translated to English, it was eventually paired with Jean Sibelius’ melody from “Finlandia,” and then sung in many churches. I have heard numerous versions, everything from instrumental (Jenny Oaks Baker) to acapella (Vocal Point), to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Each version is different; all are beautiful. The hymn is a favorite of LDS congregations; and I think that must be where David Archuleta came to love it. His version is as beautiful as any I have heard—reverent, reflective, and unmistakably personal.

♥ ♥ ♥ The highlight of the entire album is in its status as an extraordinary gift from David Archuleta to his fans. I am overwhelmed by his thoughtfulness, his generosity and his never-failing kindness to all of us.

2014 never seemed so far away, but “good things [really do] come to those who wait.” We will be here.

~Archugeezer

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21 Responses to BEGIN. with @Archugeezer

  1. Anonymous says:

    Very nice review Archugeezer!! Really enjoyed it and it’s so nice that now I have the CD too!! Of course Aug 6 I was so excited I downloaded it twice of I tunes. Thanks for sharing with us. I’ll be back to read it again 🙂

  2. sunny says:

    Archugeezer, really enjoy your critique of the songs on BEGIN.!! I love every song on this beautiful album for different reasons & some for the same reasons you do. Broken is the one song that just blows my mind because of its beauty & profound lyrics!!

  3. beloirti says:

    I enjoyed your words, Archugeezer. It was so refreshing to read not one single negative word in your critique of David’s latest album. Criticisms slip out far too easily–maybe we think we are helping? Of course, “professional” critics think it is their job….but look at you. You did it! (And you sound like a “pro”) Thanks for that and I’ll just quietly add an “Amen.” to your opening remarks.
    I need to extend my gratitude to David and all of those who assisted him in this album for the fans. It wasn’t easy, as he said, it was “against all odds”. Love and faith can move mountains they say–and I do believe David is blessed with both of those virtues. The fact that he sings so tenderly to those “Angels”, I’m sure one or two couldn’t help but slip back and sustain him in his hour of need.

  4. ray says:

    wonderfull post ,so true love it

  5. TOfan says:

    Geeeeez, loved your rant and every single word that followed!!! It’s no wonder that music/literary/art criticism has become pretty much irrelevant these days (social media taking its place) … the negative reviews seem to be nothing more than an excuse for the reviewer to have someone to bully… while the top money-making stars seem to get glowing reviews no matter what they produce. grrrrr … then there’s David … I think what bugs me most is when they don’t review his albums at all, tbh. All in all, I’m past caring… we have this amazing music that we never expected to have right now and as you say so beautifully, “I am overwhelmed by his thoughtfulness, his generosity and his never-failing kindness to all of us.” *sniff*

    also loved this: “On a side note, we might want to think about a fundraiser to insure the immortalization of the Baby Growl” … count me in! hhahahahaha

    *Billboard Top 200 chart update*
    “David Archuleta’s Begin, his third regular studio album in the U.S., bows at #28. It’s the fourth top 30 album by the singer who came in second on American Idol in Season 7.”

  6. Kizzi says:

    AG – great review. BOTW is one of my favorite songs of all time. I heard Simon and Garfunkel perform live when I was 14 and am waiting to hear it live from DA…of course I will be a high multiple of 14 by then. 😀 😉 Maybe that is something on my bucket list, eh?

    Seeing David grow and follow his dreams from 16 – 21+ is a gift. I really have enjoyed seeing him make decisions and follow those choices as much as I enjoy his music.

    The BEGIN. album is a wonderful gift. David’s heart is on every piece of it. He is kindness personified. How he blends his kindness with strength he attributes to his faith…it is good so see someone find his path and excel. As humble as he is, his growing confidence also imparts to me that he is acknowledging his gifts and accepting accolades of those gifts graciously.

    On Critics: Professional critics have personalities and biases. They are flawed. They irritate me. What they write or don’t reflects who they are and their perspective. I went to a lecture series once by news reporter, Bob Woodward (investigative report and non-fiction writer and one of the primary investigators/reporters for Watergate), and he said all writers of real news have the challenge of “bleaching the bias” from what they write. So yes, I know critics and news reporters are on different planes of existence when it comes to “news.” Professional critics are writing their bias, they create a following, and they make a living doing that. American Idol alums will always be perceived as “wannabes” and even those who make it big like Kelly Clarkson, Daughtry or Jennifer Hudson are looked at as having overcome the AI stigma. So professional critics, to me, have this built in bias with any AI alum music they listen to. AI alums have to be twice or more as good as their non-alum musician colleagues to even get a glimmer of a good review from professional critics.

    I think that fans frequently are disgruntled when David’s decisions don’t fall into step with their perceptions or desires. I really think David, in many ways, is a mirror to many of us fans….what reflects back is our own image, that is, it reflects back in pieces and parts. We can be inspired by those reflections and either feel a strong identity of like-to-like or a determination for betterment when we see things we don’t like. I think criticisms arise from us fans when what we see back the things we don’t like and many times the criticisms from us fans especially, are more about oneself than anything else. Again with those biases.

    My grandmother had embroidered a maxim that she kept over her kitchen stove. It said, “Praise in public and criticize in private.” I give and receive criticism daily. I like it as it either helps me grow or illustrates to me differences in perspectives and therefore how to move past roadblocks in dialogue or projects or relationship. I don’t appreciate public criticism as it smacks of “bullying” (to use TOfan’s word) or self-aggrandizement. And sometimes public criticism is deserved when private boundaries have been purposefully invaded.

    So that’s what floats my boat and I find it much more peaceful to stay away from anyone who is criticizing in a less than genuine way in the David fan world. Allows for maximum enjoyment with out the aggravation of a lot of gobbly-gook to wade through.

    Or like my favorite singer/songwriter just recorded:

    When you’re weary
    Feeling small
    When tears are in your eyes
    I will dry them all

    I’m on your side
    When times get rough
    And friends just can’t be found
    Like a bridge over troubled water
    I will lay me down
    Like a bridge over troubled water
    I will lay me down

    • TOfan says:

      Late reply, but LOVED your whole comment, Kizzi. And you’re so right about the bias against A.I. peeps, which is ironic because even the worst of them probably don’t need as much autotune as some of the Top 40 artists today.

      As you said so well, “AI alums have to be twice or more as good as their non-alum musician colleagues to even get a glimmer of a good review from professional critics.” sad but true

  7. Pingback: Time to BEGIN. The David Archuleta FanScene Post: » David Archuleta | David Archuleta FanScene

  8. Archugeezer says:

    Thanks to all for your responses.

    Kizzi: Thank you for your interesting remarks. “Praise in public and criticize in private.” That general philosophy would solve it for me.

    I also agree with TOfan about bullying tactics. Too often, public criticism amounts to nothing more than an ego trip for bullies who think they have found their niche. Better to ignore it and just sit back to enjoy the music—David’s music of course.

  9. peppertara says:

    Archugeezer, just loved reading your words and your fabulous review of BEGIN. I am completely in love with this album. A beautiful work of musical art from David, filled with heart and amazing vocals. I am also ‘blown away’ by the sincere effort, hard work, time and love that David put in to creating this treasure before he left. I couldn’t squeeze one iota of criticism out of me regarding this album, the cover or anything about it (or David for that matter). There simply isn’t any there.
    I am just very grateful and immersed in the beauty and goodness of it all!
    As far as the critics are concerned, they rub me the same way and I love your perspective on it.
    What will be will be I suppose but I like to hold to this: “Words can’t bring us down”. That’s what they are really, just words from a particular person’s own mindset.
    oh and this…..”How far would you drive to hear the “Memphis sky” notes in person? See ya there!”
    YES, and I think that is my favorite part of that song, how does he do that…just gorgeous and captivating!
    Thanks for sharing your insightful and lovely words.
    Loving all the comments here from everyone!
    beloirti…..really loved your remarks.

  10. peppertara says:

    Forgot to give a big congrats to David, his team and his fans….BEGIN. #28 on Billboard top 200 is great! Especially considering the circumstances right now, I think it’s terrific. 🙂

  11. peppertara says:

    Top Independent Albums chart….oh I like that. Great chart news for BEGIN. !
    So thrilled that I received the first of my CD order today! Amazon wins out (amongst the 3 places I ordered from). The others should be arriving shortly though. So good to finally have the CD in my hands, really looks beautiful I must say. 🙂

  12. TOfan says:

    More BEGIN. buzz (The Hollywood Reporter)!

    When season seven runner-up David Archuleta announced last December that he was devoting the next two years of his life to a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, it was presumed there would be no music from the Idol finalist until he returned home in 2014. So it may be a surprise that Archuleta’s latest album debuts on The Billboard 200 this week at No. 28.

    Begin. is a 10-song collection of covers and one original, “Broken,” co-written by Archuleta. The remakes include R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts,” Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush’s “Don’t Give Up” and Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors.” Archuleta recorded the album before starting his mission in South America.

    Signed to RCA after his success on Idol, Archuleta is now on the independent Highway Records imprint, owned by Deseret Book, the publishing arm of the LDS church. That qualifies Begin. to appear on Billboard’s Top Independent Chart, where it debuts at No. 5. The album makes an even higher bow on the Top Internet Albums chart, entering at No. 3. That equals Archuleta’s previous highest peak on this survey, when his self-titled debut album entered at No. 3 in 2008.

    Begin. is the fifth album by Archuleta to appear on The Billboard 200. He has had one album debut on the album chart every year since 2008. Here is a summary of how he’s fared on this survey: David Archuleta, peaked at No. 2 (2008); Christmas from the Heart, No. 30 (2009); The Other Side of Down, No. 13 (2010); Glad Christmas Tidings, No. 179 (2011) [Mormon Tabernacle Choir/Orchestra At Temple Square Feat. David Archuleta With Michael York]; Begin., No 28 (2012).

    Source.

  13. J.P. Dennis says:

    BEGIN is a beautiful album and I am enjoying it very much. I really enjoyed reading through your descriptions of each song. This is what I would like to do on my blog with The Other Side of Down. Thanks for posting great material!

  14. emmegirl14 says:

    Archugeezer, your entire article, rant to review, makes my heart fill with love, and with gratitude, that David has so many fans like you. Can’t say enough how much I loved your review.

    kizzi, “Allows for maximum enjoyment with out the aggravation of a lot of gobbly-gook to wade through.”….perfectly said, that’s why I stopped “going there” a long time ago.

    peppertara, “couldn’t squeeze one iota of criticism out of me regarding this album”….likewise. 🙂

  15. TOfan says:

    new post/thread!

    🙂

  16. tawna21 says:

    Just got thru reading your rant and review, Archugeezer. Love it! Agree with it! Love it again!
    Thanks!! 🙂

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