Monday, June 08, 2009

Album Review: Mitchel Musso

I'm taking a page out of a lot of my blogroll friends and attempting to write full album reviews when I feel up to it. Feel free to tell me if I should continue this idea or scrap it.

I'm one of those 20 year olds who is a closet 'Hannah Montana' fan. Closet for obvious reasons, but a fan because occasionally the show produces an occasional pop gem. Many of Hannah's "singles" are adorable teen pop, and even some of Miley's hits have gained respect from yours truly.

I'm not too surprised that the rest of the actors are attempting music careers, because Disney apparently only hires you if you have triple-threat potential. Mitchel Musso is the second HM alumni to release a disc (selftitled, which came out this past Tuesday), and plays Oliver, Miley's male BFF on the show.

I was not too familiar with his music, and since I heard a few good things from a few people whose opinions I trust, I decided to take a look into the album. (however, as I was first starting to look into the album, and I heard news from my friend Nikki that the album wasn't too good, I started to feel a bit less light-hearted). What I had heard prior was indulgent rap-ish tracks from this lil ganger wannabe that immediately turned me off, but the album is more rich in pop-rock, which to me is the more logical choice. However, Musso falls prey to his connection with his older brother's, Mason, band Metro Station. Considering MS have gained a bit of a foothold in the US radio market with "Shake It" being a pretty big hit last year, it's no small wonder Mitch hoped some of that would rub off. His voice is quite similar to his brother's, and attempts to channel the Metro Station electro-emo vibe while still staying pop-rock. Occasionally, it works alright. But most of the time, it just feels repeatitive and generic.

The opener, "Hey", is pretty run of the mill pop rock, and serves as Musso's current single. "Speed Dial" opens like a ballad that 'speeds' up, and has some interesting note choices. The lyrics are (very) lame but are age-appropriate for 17 year old. The inclusion of electric guitar is surprising, but start to drown on Mitchel's vocals -- a common theme I find as the disc wears on, and in my opinion, starts to make a listener weary of an artists potential. His voice, at times, is semi-pleasant to listen to -- but is most definitely auto-tuned to a large degree...or at least is sounds that way. But of the entire set, "Speed Dial" is one of the stronger tracks, and was written by James Bourne of Busted fame in the UK.

The first real surprise of the record is "Us Against the World", a semi-electro type ballad whose intro almost sounds like Chris Brown's "Forever", complete with breathy vocals by Musso with a strangled sounding Katelyn Tarver. This could have been a big dance smash...if it had different singers. Tarver is almost completely drowned out (which is a real shame -- as she has a real potential and is completely overshadowed by her Radio Disney brethren). She is the best part of the song (even though some parts sounded rather pitchy), because the majority of it is too busy with sweeping electro synth and Mitchel's "Oh Ooh-oooh"s. It's a little sad because if this was executed better, it would be a key track. It was written by PJ Bianco, who helped out the Jonas Brothers with some of their stronger tracks from their last two albums. Musso himself has been hyping this track quite a bit, and my guess is it might be the next single.

"Do It Up" sounds very Metro Station -- something I was expecting -- complete with hand claps and blaring guitar. However, the lyrics are just lame. And what exactly is this "all" he wants to "do tonight"? It's clear he is attempting to project to a more older audience (not unlike Metro Station)...but even though he is 17 years old, it just comes off creepy, and I immediately deleted the song -- despite the fact that the song was written by Max Martin (shock!).

The big reference to his brothers band comes a track later with "Shout It", with features Mason Musso. It is one of the two songs co-written by Mitch on the entire set. "Get Out" also feels very MS with its shouted "Get Out! Get Out!" chorus hook.

"Welcome to Hollywood" is the first song in a while that doesn't completely drown out Musso's vocals but is still very upbeat and has an interesting lyrics choice. Maybe I like it because it was co-written by Andreas Carlsson, who has written several pop classics ("I Want It That Way" and "Bye Bye Bye", anybody?). Although it lacks the Swedish pop appeal, it's not bad. In fact -- the track gets better (mentally) once you know that the poptastic Simon Curtis (star of "Spectacular" and the writer of Candy Coated Chaos' incredible "Utopia") was the one who original demo-ed the song! Actually, I'd kind of rather hear his version. Thanks for that info, Paul!

"(You Didn't Have To) Walk Away" is the first ballad of the set. I find it quite enjoyable in a generic sort of way. It's the first song of the entire album that I listened to all the way through and didn't get bored of. The lyrics are a bit more mature without trying too hard, and Musso's voice is better complimented.

"How to Lose A Girl" falls prey to the vocoder trend (again, very Metro Station -- same goes for "Movin' In"). "The In Crowd" was Musso's first official solo single of original material -- but it turns me off with its lyrical content (although I'm sure tweenage Disney kids will definitely relate).

The overall verdict is this album is mediocre -- full of generic filler-ish tracks, some of which still feel like demos. Of the entire album, "Welcome to Hollywood", "(You Didn't Have To) Walk Away" and "Us Against the World" are the only tracks I ended up keeping (and the latter is more for Katelyn Tarver). But what more can you expect from a second string Disney kid? If he had better backing on a label away from Disney, maybe he could make it (the cover art and lack of promotion almost entirely beyond on the Disney Channel alone should prove that Musso isn't exactly a priority to his label)...but this auto-tuned pop rock just isn't gonna cut it.


Myfizzypop said...

i wanna hear that demo too. i'm gonna bug Simon to put it on his myspace :P

Nikki said...

Definitely continue writing these reviews - I love reading yours! hahah.

Talia said...

I have no idea who this is. There's a whole Disney world I've missed out on but he's with Max Martin so I must listen. Us Against The World isn't a Westlife cover is it?!

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