The Other Side of Down is the latest offering from LDS singer and American Idol alumni, David Archuleta. Being LDS, a musician, engineer, and producer may qualify me to critique this album, but my greatest qualification might actually be that I am the father of 3 young girls who fit a significant demographic portion of his fan base. Also, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to hear David sing live, in a very “up close and personal”, accapella performance – so I’ve seen his talent in its most raw and simple form, and was eager to compare that to the production of his newest album.
David’s producers have tried to squeeze him into a radio-friendly, tween-compatible, pop format. For the most part, they’ve succeeded, but stylistically this album feels just a bit “forced” at times. Sure, it fits the format in many ways – catchy melodies, electronic beats, loads of synth sounds, lots of layering and production quality, and of course the terribly over-used “telephone” sounding effect on vocal delays and overdubs. But there are noticable differences between this album and many of the cookie-cutter masses.
Perhaps most notably – the vocals are not auto-tuned to death and I can actually let my kids listen without cringing about the lyrics! Additionally, the unique tone of his voice sets him apart from many of the copy-cat sound-alikes on the charts. A generous amount of guitar and piano also help add a little more musical credibility and provide a little “grounding” so to speak. There are songs on the album, such as “Falling Stars”, “Complain”, and “My Kind of Perfect” that reveal a talent that has far more substance and potential than typical “bubble gum pop”. These songs clearly show that he is a serious artist capable of having a long and successfull career.
Musically, influences seem to come from all over the place. While it does for the most part fit the current pop format, there are moments in the album where I hear influences from the Beach Boys to Depeche Mode to Jack Johnson to Enya (I know I know, call me crazy, but listen closely and you’ll see what I mean!).
While I believe this album doesn’t fully showcase his vocal abilities, he does have plenty of opportunities to shine. And, unlike many of the lesser singers who try to impress with lots of fills, trills, and runs, he doesn’t overdo the vocals, which I think speaks to his maturity as an artist.
There are some production aspects that are overdone or a little too cliche, but under the surface lurks a formidable talent, and the album is full of catchy melodies, good production value, great vocals, and packaged in a family friendly format.
This album is something that my daughters, their friends, and I can actually agree on (but I did like him better accapella!).