Review Summary: Standard pop-punk, but well executed and thoroughly enjoyable.
The goals of pop-punk music stand in great contrast to those of most other genres. Most of us want to feel like we are listening to music that either defines who we are, pushes the outer limits of experimentation, or touches base with us on an emotional level. You know, music with a purpose. For many people, the pop/pop-punk scene is a muddled mess of unoriginality that mindlessly churns out one heard-it-before song one after the other. While it can be understandably agitating, it is still possible for this kind of music to make us feel something. It shouldn’t (and hopefully won’t) cause you to have an existential revelation of any sort. But if you take a moment to back away from analyzing the cliched lyrics, basic instrumentation, and sort of just let the music happen to you, you might be pleased with the results. It is for the care-free listener that Smile Kid might appeal.
Structually speaking, this second effort by We The Kings is very similar to the first. Neither waste any time in getting the listener to the best tracks fast. In the debut album, both of the singles were offered to the listener within the first three songs. Here, we are given “She Takes Me High”, “Promise the Stars”, and “Heaven Can Wait”. The latter has already been named as the first single, and the earlier two both have the potential to be ones in the future. “Promise the Stars”, in particular, seems like a song that could catch on fire quickly. Like the entire album, it has a definite summertime atmosphere to it. Combined with your usual love story lyrics, it makes for an irresistable listen. “Story of Your Life” comes as a pleasant surprise, with quite possibly the most memorable chorus on Smile Kid:
"We can stay like this or go, go, go!
We can take it too fast or take it slow
We can spend our lives oceanside
Or count the stars in the desert on a magic night
You can lie awake in bed or come sleep with me instead
If you give me one chance to take your hand
I’ll fill the empty pages as you write the story of your life"
It is certainly a pop-punk anthem of sorts, and it elevates this album’s rating on its own. Like the debut “We The Kings”, however, this album suffers in the middle. Filler tracks such as “Rain Falls Down”, “In N’ Out (Animal Style)”, and “Spin” are all pretty repetitive and they kill the the flow that was created with the far superior early songs. The lyrics aren’t better, with poetic gems such as:
"I've got a feeling to stay
It beats the feeling to go
And I've got a feeling, so I can know
What really could have been"
This takes up a good portion of the album, serving as its most detrimental aspect rating-wise. Luckily, Smile Kid redeems itself with a trio of strong closing tracks. “Anna Marie” is an almost-ballad (similar to All Again For You, from their first album), which is an enjoyable listen as it shifts from a dreamy piano intro to more of a mid-tempo rock song. If Smile Kid had an officially designated “ballad” or slow song, it would undoubtedly be “We’ll Be A Dream” featuring Demi Lovato. Once your initial skepticism passes, it is actually a beautifully assembled piece of music. Lovato’s voice complements Travis Clark’s lead vocals in the duet, and they both sing well separately at various points in the song. It is a fitting way to point the album in the direction of the closing track, “What You Do To Me”. This song lives off the energy in the pre-chorus, which is swiftly followed by an earnest sounding “You’re the storm, let it rain, you’ve got eyes like a hurricane”. Comparing the girl to a storm may be a mediocre metaphor at best, but he sounds genuine enough to pull it off.
When all is said and done, We The Kings follow the same formula they used in their much heralded debut: a somewhat front-loaded collection of fun songs and punchy choruses. It isn’t necessarily enough to distinguish them from other similar bands, but it accomplishes what they probably wanted it to. It is extremely well produced, carfully constructed, and always catchy. They won’t garner much praise for being unique, but as long as they continue to produce enjoyable music and blockbuster hits, we probably won’t hear too many people complaining about their "lack of experimentation".