Friday, September 7, 2012

Good Sounding Junkie (Stoner?) Makes Something Worth Listening To With Daniel Powter

The Good: Easy to listen to, Some decent lyrics, A generally good voice
The Bad: Short, A lot of drug references
The Basics: Daniel Powter gives a funk-based pop-rock performance that is a worthwhile debut and certainly worth a listen, especially for "Suspect."

I don't know anything about Daniel Powter, save that I heard his single "Bad Day" about a hundred times on the radio and yet I was still willing to review his album Daniel Powter - or "DP," the cover makes the latter the title, the spine the former. The cover of the album makes it look like Powter is trying to pull of a Justin Timberlake-type poser thug persona and after listening to the album, I have to say I'm a bit disappointed in him for that.

Daniel Powter - the album - is a collection of ten pop-rock songs with a singer who is mostly in the tenor range. Powter wrote all ten songs and he plays the keyboards, so it's hard not to acknowledge him as an artist. Powter's pop-rock is an inoffensive sounding light, grooin'-down-the-street type sound that appeals to young adults and casual drug users. It's not terribly deep music and part of the sound is designed to accompany sliding down the street while in a haze with friends. "Song 6" opens the album with this exact sound and sets the tone for the listener with lines like, "So let's lie in the sun / You didn't want the world to know / But I'm not strong and you'll find out / And you get the rock 'n' roll . . . "

The sound I'm describing comes from Powters somewhat higher than usual singing combined with holding notes longer than most pop songs. The result is a sound much like Jamiroquai (on "Virtual Insanity") or other college-rock stoner groups. That's not a judgment, it's simply the demographic I can most readily identify as instantly buying this type work.

And for those who would comment on my judging a book on its cover (Powter does look an awful lot like my stoner friend I worked with in college. . .), from the first song, Powter openly states his usage preference. The next line in "Song 6" - following the citation above - is "So let's groove and get high . . ." Heck, one of the songs is "Jimmy Gets High." It's not a cautionary tale.

And, for a change, I'm saying, "That's fine." Parents, if you're reading this review to evaluate whether or not this is a disc good for your kids, you ought to know that it contains references to getting high. Is it serious enough that your kids are going to go out and become stoners? Probably, but with peer pressure they were pretty much bound to anyway. That's a joke delivered deadpan for those who haven't got their radars on. Besides, I tend to write reviews for adults anyway.

Here's the thing; I liked Daniel Powter, the album. I heard "Bad Day" a ton of times and I'm on my seventh listen to the album and it's a pretty strong album, especially for a debut. While "Bad Day" is annoyingly singsongy after a while, it's not indicative of the entire album. "Suspect" is a pretty incredible psychedelic funk song that follows "Bad Day" on the album and blows it out of the water. One wonders why the record label didn't release it as a single.

And there's a decent mix of fast and slow tempo within a certain range. "Lie to Me" picks up the pace a little and "Styrofoam" slows it down, making for a decent mix on the album. And the truth, the album doesn't seem like it's marketed toward young adults. On "Lie To Me," Powter suggestively croons, "She got hips that sway for you / She got legs that never really stop . . ." and it works. Powters lyrics are meant for that bracket above the 12 - 16 "getting money from mommy and daddy" buying demographic. I like that.

For an album that uses keyboards, drums, bass and guitars, this is a refreshingly diverse sounding album. :) I guess stoners like variety. :) Sigh, that's going to bring in the comments.

I've noticed I only complain about length when the album I'm enjoying ends too quickly (no Mariah Carey album has ever been brought down a notch by me for being too short!). Powter's ten tracks come in at barely thirty-seven minutes. There's nothing long, epic or even drawn out on Daniel Powter and in this case, it's a disappointment, especially for a debut. Note to Warner Brother Records; if you're going to try to sell the masses on new artists, prove they are worth investing in; push for at least an hour for a debut disc!

So, there you have it. If you want something different from pop rock or just want something to use as mood music to groove down the street with after you've gotten high, Daniel Powter might be a great choice for you. The lyrics are decent, the album is cohesive, yet diverse and you can understand anything Powter is singing.

I mean, unless you're REALLY stoned.

The best track is "Suspect" which I think might be one of today's missing classics on the airwaves. The weak link on the album is "Styrofoam," more for the lyrics than the music.

For other male rockers, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Approaching Normal - Blue October
Aladdin Sane - David Bowie
Exile On Mainstream - Matchbox Twenty


For other music reviews, please visit my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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