Review by Shannon Shumaker
Ben Rector’s Brand New is full of stories. From the honest lyrics on “Something Beautiful” to the hopeful track, “Brand New” to a story about a flight with a stranger in “30,000 Feet,” each song is meaningful, honest and real.
The first track on Brand New is “Something Beautiful,” and it opens the album on the perfect note, showing you exactly who Ben Rector is right off the bat - no masks or gimmicks. “Something Beautiful” is just that; beautiful. The song is very raw and simplistic, just Rector’s voice alongside a piano, with string elements only providing some more emotion when needed. The song, like much of Brand New isn’t complex at all, but it shows just who Ben Rector is.
It’s no surprise that a song like “Brand New” follows the strong opening track, carrying the same bright, hopeful tone as “Something Beautiful.” The chorus of the title track is catchy and fun to listen to, though I’m not necessarily a fan of the echoey effect on the vocals (especially the backing vocal parts) in the song.
“Favorite Song” comes along a few tracks later, providing another catchy and happy summer track. All of the song and artist references (such as Steven Tyler and Madonna and Smash Mouth’s “All Star,” just to name a few) in this track make it fun and relatable, and the differing musical influences are apparent as Rector belts, “You feel like my favorite song.” This track hosts quite a bit of the elements that make Brand New strong, as well. Many of the songs on this album are very specific lyrically, but are also written about common experiences that many people can relate to. Because of this, listeners are bound to connect with these personal tracks without needing generalized lyrics to appeal to the masses. The honesty and realism in the lyrics are what make Brand New as strong as it is.
A great example of the personal yet still relatable lyricism on the album comes in “The Men That Drive Me Places,” which is an emotional and honest ballad. The story behind this song, about the men and women who may not get as much credit as they deserve for all of the hard work and heroic things they do on a day to day basis, touches your heart and really makes you feel something. “Note To Self” is also a personal yet relatable track, as Rector reads off notes that one would leave for themselves - things we’ve all been through or have struggled with at one point or another.
The only weakness in Brand New comes in the simplicity of some of the songs. There aren’t necessarily any sweeping metaphors lyrically, and while the realism makes the songs easy to relate to, it also makes some of them sound very similar. The positive and uplifting vibes on these songs, while a strength, are also prominent throughout each track, making them blend into one another. However, there are also stand outs like anthematic song, “Like The World Is Going To End,” that do break that pattern. While I am not personally a fan of the spoken word parts in “Crazy,” it is also another stand out because of the differing sound and songwriting. The vocal melody in “Almost Home” is also one of the strongest in the entire album.
As a whole, Brand New is honest, personal and relatable. While Rector isn’t necessarily changing music as we know it with these simplistic and catchy tracks, many of these songs hold messages that will strike a chord or hit home with plenty of listeners, no matter their walk of life. The realism and specific stories in Brand New make the album strong and at its core, very human.
Listen to "Something Beautiful" or "The Men Who Drive Me Places"
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