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.
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 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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.