If you like Third Eye Blind’s music, then you’ll find Thanks for Everything enjoyable; Survive the Summer appears to be Iggy Azalea’s attempt at proving her hip hop credentials; Liam Payne’s debut EP, First Time finds him stranded in the middle of the road.
Artist: Third Eye Blind
EP: Thanks for Everything***
A lot may have changed in the world of music (and the world in general) in the two decades since they enjoyed their mainstream heyday, but Third Eye Blind still sound pretty much the same. Their latest release, Thanks for Everything, is very distinctly 3EB even though the group wrote none of its content themselves.
The seven song extended play, a layby on the road to their next album, is a collection of covers, put together while the band seeks inspiration to create their next original set. It’s an eclectic mix of songs from various genres, and overall it’s a very impressive selection. Instead of redoing ubiquitous rock staples that have already been covered over and over again by numerous artists, Stephan Jenkins and co. have gone in a more unique direction, reinterpreting somewhat lesser-known tracks from seven vastly different performers.
Opening with a cover of rock outfit Happy Diving’s ‘10’ and closing with their version of indie folk darling Bon Iver’s ‘Blood Bank’, Thanks for Everything sees the band make each piece their own without straying too far from the original compositions, creating their standard guitar-driven sound powered by Jenkins’ distinct voice.
It’s when you compare these renditions to the originals, though, that their shortcomings start to become apparent. The emotive rawness of the original gems – like the aforementioned Bon Iver track or Tim Buckley’s beautiful ‘Song to the Siren’ – has been polished to the point that the emotional impact has been diminished. When, for instance, Pete Doherty mumbles “they’ll never play this on the radio” on Babyshambles’ rebellious ‘F*** Forever’, you believe him; when Jenkins sings it on 3EB’s version of the tune, you’re not so sure.
If you like Third Eye Blind’s music, then you’ll find Thanks for Everything enjoyable even if it doesn’t quite reach the resonance of the original material it recreates. The band has put their own stamp on these songs, but their versions aren’t necessarily as impressive or as impactful as the originals. The group does have terrific taste in music though and seems to be searching for inspiration in all the right places.
Highlights: ‘10’, ‘F*** Forever’, ‘This Isn’t Our Parade’
Artist: Iggy Azalea
EP: Survive the Summer**
Even at the height of her (inexplicable) popularity, Iggy Azalea was quite polarizing. The Australian performer seemed to spend less time topping charts and more facing allegations of cultural appropriation while getting lambasted for everything from her affected Southern accent to her annoying imitation of hip hop stereotypes.
Whatever pop appeal songs like the Charlie XCX-aided ‘Fancy’ and Rita Ora-assisted ‘Black Widow’ had – that too because of their contributors, not their principal artist – has been stripped away from her latest release, Survive the Summer, a six song extended play that appears to be the artist’s attempt at proving her hip hop credentials, even though all it does is highlight just how weak her material and delivery are.
Her limited, crude subject matter mostly revolves around her physical and financial assets. From the grating style to the ridiculous brags, it is all a bland, monotonous concoction. The set shows occasional signs of promise with its guest appearances (Tyga appears on ‘Kream’ and Wiz Khalifa features on ‘OMG’), and its intriguing, ominous beats could have yielded compelling tunes had they been handled by a more skilled performer. But ultimately this effort succumbs to the artificiality of the artist at its core.
If Survive the Summer was an attempt at a comeback, then it won’t really help her convert her detractors. We could’ve easily survived the summer without it.
Artist: Liam Payne
EP: First Time**1/2
The (never ending?) hiatus of boy band One Direction has given its (former?) members a chance to establish their own place and identity in the industry. But some of them have clearly had more success on their solo route than others. Liam Payne’s efforts have ended up on the weaker end of the spectrum, and his debut EP, First Time, doesn’t do much to establish him as an interesting, versatile artist.
Postponing the release of his debut album, the singer has instead chosen to offer a short, four-song set that will please the fans he has inherited from his 1D days, particularly those who enjoy the current Top 40 trends. The four tracks – the Latin-tinged, French Montana-featuring ‘First Time’, urban pop ditty ‘Home With You’, heartbreak ballad ‘Depend On It’, and electro pop breakup tune ‘Slow’ – are competently made mainstream pop songs that simply lack personality.
The singer has no writing credits on this set, and that sheds light on the main problem with this effort; it fails to show us who the artist really is. Payne appears to be trying to find a place somewhere between Justin Timberlake and Nick Jonas but has failed to distinguish himself from his peers. He neither pushes himself stylistically nor vocally, and, as a result, finds himself stranded in the middle of the road.