Saturday, January 15, 2011

David Archuleta goes “The Other Side of Down” with new album

This was originally posted on my usual blog, Just thought I should share :)

As many of you know, I am a huge fan of David Archuleta. He and his music have changed some of my perspectives on music as well as life and I thought: why not write a song-by-song review of his newest album, “The Other Side of Down”, which came out on October 5, 2010? This sophomore album (if the 2009 “Christmas From the Heart” is excluded) was a huge step up (pun intended :P ) from his debut effort, for he was more involved and almost every song shows off his fun and goofy personality. Some have called this album “a musical anti-depressant” and I can’t help but agree. The optimism in this album is infectious to everyone who listens to it. Even my brother couldn’t help but sing along!
1. “The Other Side of Down” (David Archuleta, Joy Williams, Blair Daly, Jeremy Bose) This song is about staying positive no matter what and not letting the ups and downs of life get to you, but to aim to get to “the other side of down”. It is an up-tempo song that will have you singing “doooown!” and put you in a great mood in no time. David’s voice glides pleasantly and effortlessly through the song, and the electric guitar ending has a really cool vibe and the song is overall well-produced.
2. “Something ‘Bout Love” (David Archuleta, Sam Hollander, Dave Katz, Chris DeStefano)This was the first single off of this album (it came out 7/20 and for some reason, his label’s trying to forget it, calling Elevator the first single), which talks not only about romantic love but love in general, whether it’s love between friends, families, or the inherent love that people have that motivates them to help others. David shows off his range in this song song, and although I was slightly unhappy with the auto-tune in the bridge at first listen, I realized it was very slight, purely for effect, and only lasts about 1 second each line. It is an electronic, power-pop production with meaning, the latter of which the radio lacks these days.
3. “Elevator” (David Archuleta, Mike Krompass, Shelly Peiken) One of my personal favorites, “Elevator” might sound like a nursery rhyme at first listen, but then you realize how original the song is. It is based on a dream David had, and the song itself is about how life can be confusing and unpredictable at times, but it is the emotions and surprises in life that “keep you feeling so alive”. It is very fun and the part in the second verse where he harmonizes with himself is just awesome. The song starts out with a pleasant acoustic guitar and David’s voice humming, guiding you into the song. It is a very well-written and well-produced song. This is the second single off of the album.
4. “Stomping the Roses” (David Archuleta, Bryce Avary) One of the best songs on the album, “Stomping the Roses” is about being frustrated with someone so immature, irritable, and selfish that he can’t stand having them in his life or having himself be in their world anymore. Why would anyone stomp roses, something so beautiful, something that means a lot to someone else.  It is one of the only “angry” (in David’s words) songs on the album, but it is very well-written and shows off David’s voice. I think it’s kind of sassy.The song isn’t overproduced and the layering of drum machines and guitar is just right. This song is very creative and is currently my cellphone ringtone ^_^
5. “Who I Am” (David Archuleta, Mike Krompass, Shelly Peiken) My brother’s favorite song off the album (he’s not an Archie, btw), this song is pretty self-explanatory: it’s who David is. He sings about keeping a clear head and just being himself as he takes a break from the crazy world he’s in to try to figure out who he is.  I love how he sings his own background vocals, which is extremely well-done. My favorite lyric? “I don’t care if Jeff Fenster (his A&R rep) is calling” :-) Priceless.
6. “Falling Stars” (Emanuel Kiriakou, Claude Kelly, Jess Cates) This song is irrelevant to the central theme of the album, but a good song nevertheless. It is about not getting over someone who, according to implications from the lyrics, is out of his league. Although parts of the lyrics are abstract and don’t make a whole lot of sense (“crashing cars”? is it because they burn like “falling stars”?!), its meaning is clear. The highlight of this song is David’s voice, the way it glides back and forth from falsetto to modal voice, and his refrain from using vibrato at Eman’s suggestion gives the vaguely familiar melody a haunting beauty.
7. “Parachutes and Airplanes” (David Archuleta, Lindy Robbins, Matt Squire) Personally, I prefer this song live (he sang it in June in Rexburg, ID, when he didn’t know whether it’d make the album or not), but that doesn’t mean the song isn’t just great. In it, David sings about an absolutely blissful moment where an important person in his life guides him past all the negativity and makes this moment worthwhile. The melody is lovely and creative in and of itself; the orchestral arrangement in the background, which I hadn’t noticed until many more listens, gives it a sophistication that generic radio pop songs don’t have. My favorite lyric is “The world’s a thousand shades of blue/ like we’re here in a kaleidoscope” because blue is my favorite color. My brother, after hearing this lyric as I played this song during dinner last night, actually asked me if I’d like the world to be in “A thousand shades of blue”. I said no, that’d be boring, lol! It is a “feel good” (again, in David’s words) song that gets you in a great mood. I just wished that the background vocals at the end of the bridge behind “ground ground ground ground” were louder.
8. “Look Around” (David Archuleta, Victoria Horn, Matt Squire) A song with a techno feel, “Look Around” is about appreciating all the things you already have in life instead of fantasizing about what you should have, because that causes you to lose sight of the great things that you do have. Believe it or not, I actually love the auto-tune used in his background vocals where he goes “oo woah woah”. It really fit well despite David’s wanting to take it off and needing persuasion from the producers that it is good for this song. I hate auto-tune too, but it just works in this song. Plus, it’s not on the main vocal. This song is very catchy and is also very meaningful.
9. “Good Place” (David Archuleta, Mitch Allan, Shelly Peiken) With the beats in the verses intentionally made to sound like his first single, “Crush”, this song is about currently being in a good place in his life and career and appreciating it even though David’s confused about how he got here and whether he deserves it.  He is just living in the moment and making the best of it, trying not to take it for granted. It is a mid-tempo song with a seemingly familiar melody, but I can’t quite place it.
10. “Complain” (David Hodges, Emanuel Kiriakou, Claude Kelly) Although David did not have a hand in writing this song, it fits the theme of the album well and has a great message. Just listening to the way David sings this song, you can tell he truly believes it. This song is also about appreciating what you have and to realize that every time you find something to complain about, you should stop and think about how fortunate you are. It has a country and soulful vibe to it, and is pretty much guitar-driven.
11. “Things Are Gonna Get Better” (David Archuleta, Danielle Brisebois, Nick Lashly, A. Ander) This is a motivational song about moving on with your life no matter what happens because things will get better. I really like the overall production of this song (the snapping and clapping!), but I think the electronic effect in the background vocals after the choir comes in towards the end is superfluous and it doesn’t fit well. David’s vocals are incredible in this song as well. The song has a gospel feel to it, which emphasizes its message, though the lyrics could be better written albeit rather inspirational and relatable. The melody is pleasant.
12. “My Kind of Perfect” (David Archuleta, Joy Williams, Cindy Brouwer, Jeremy Bose)This song is about what kind of girl David is looking for. She doesn’t have to perfect, but she has to be his kind of perfect, and his kind of perfect is not appearance per se, but what’s inside, in her heart. This song is a piano driven ballad, very pleasant and touching, with beautifully written lyrics and melody. Actually, the only two instruments in this song are the piano and David’s flawless voice. His fast vibrato at the end of the slightly longer notes is just lovely. Again one of my favorites.
I have concluded that there is no bad song on this album, but some definitely stand out more than others. I really love how he sings his own background vocals in almost every song, since other people probably can’t sing the parts as well anyway.I would highly recommend this album to everyone, whether they like pop music or not because it is so refreshing and original compared to what’s popular nowadays, which are songs about partying, drinking, relationships etc. I seriously do not get why his label seems reluctant to do further promotion and target more audiences. Anyways, well done Mr. Archuleta, and keep up the excellent work! :D
(unprofessional) Grade: A- :)

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