I’m a Music Video addict, I can’t help it. No matter whom it is, if they are on MTV or Fuse I’ve heard them. Sometimes I strike gold, like when I discovered Modest Mouse from their “Float On” video on VH1. Now they are, what you could call, a continuing love affair as I currently own/have listened to half their discography. This prospect is what drives me to turn MTV on every morning when I wake up. So one day after some Green Day video ended a commercial for a new show came on the screen. Usually I try to stay away from MTV’s “reality” shows save for when there is an incredibly hot girl on ‘Real World’, but this looked different. Some blonde, long haired guy stood there handing out little tickets for a show he was playing at a coffee house. “What’s this” I thought to myself, “MTV embracing the indie music scene"” I should have known better, the only indie MTV embraces is Hawthorne Heights.
It turns out the guy in the commercial was none other than Ashley Parker Angel. At the time this meant nothing to me, for I never watched MTV back in the heyday of boy bands. A few more commercials later it became apparent that this fool had some sort of cultural significance. I ended up watching the whole stupid season of “There and Back: Ashley Parker Angel”. Why" I don’t know. It turns out APA was chosen by none other than Music Television to be in O-Town, performers of such hits as: All or Nothing, Liquid Dreams and We Fit Together. His comeback of sorts, from bankrupt to number one on TRL isn’t all that amazing considering he has a decent voice, good looks and the network’s blessing.
If there are any O-Town fans on this site or any O-Town haters, don’t automatically judge this. Angel has ditched his boy band roots ala Backstreet Boys ‘Never Gone” style in favor of a more edgy (not that edgy) kind of rockish sound. Long gone are the drum machines and synthesizer loops (though both make the occasional appearance on Soundtrack to Your Life
), nothing but Angel and some zero-talent backing band. Angel still retains some Boy-Band qualities though, namely his good vocals, cheesy music and clichéd lyrics.
I have to admit Angel’s songwriters and producers did a hell of a good job. What one finds on Soundtrack to Your Life is one great pop song after another, cleverly disguised by distorted guitars and faux screams. Nothing is entirely out of the ordinary, STYL features the mandatory piano ballad (Apology), the “rocking” first single (Let U Go) and the occasional decent song (Soundtrack to Your Life, Who Cares, among others). Nearly every one of the twelve songs on Ashley’s debut is perfect for radio and TRL. Even I, self-proclaimed Indie Guru and Hip-Hop Head can’t stop myself from singing along. Infact, I’m singing “I remember when you came with me that night” [Let U Go] as I type this review.
The cheesy factor plays a huge part on STYL. There is a fine line between cool and cliché and on certain songs Ashley manages to slightly blur it (I.E I’m Better and The Title Track). His lyrics, which I’m still not entirely positive who writes (though I think he co-writes most of them) have no depth whatsoever. He sings about standard topics, love, lack of love and such. Occasionally he branches off and sings about his then un-born child (Soundtrack to Your Life). My brother put it perfectly saying he’s not even faux-emo, he’s faux-faux-emo.
The music is also highly clichéd, it is apparent that in Angel’s “transformation” from Pop god to “Singer-songwriter” he decided to take absolutely no risks. I wouldn’t be surprised to have heard some of his backing music on The Backstreet Boys new record. C’mon Angel, even Ashlee Simpson takes the occasional risk. Ashley’s band’s playing doesn’t vary either, mostly guitar driven, but with the occasional piano riff. Below the guitar/piano is a nearly non-existent bass line and a relatively simple 2/4 drum beat. Thankfully all the instrument’s tones are quite good, which I once again credit APA’s producers for. The highlight of the album music and lyric wise are “Who Cares”, a Beatles-esque semi-intelligent ballad and “Shades of Blue” a tune that mixes nearly electronica verses with modern rock (Think Creed) choruses, coincidentally these are the only two songs on the record I can imagine myself playing again.
All in all Soundtrack to Your Life is a decent pop record. It certainly isn’t creative or monumental, but it has moments of utter mediocrity and occasional prettiness (“Who Cares” and Shades of Blue). Sometimes the songs are so ridiculously clichéd and dumb I can’t even force myself to listen to them. Compared to some of the things topping TRL these days Ashley Parker Angel isn’t half bad (although I would much prefer Rihanna or The Pussycat Dolls *raises eyebrows*). The album is very well produced and the songs written for it are near perfect pop tunes. In twenty years I can’t imagine listening to this, or even remember it but for the time being, at least it took up an hour of the most boring Sunday in recent memory.
Thanks, Ashley Parker Angel for your efforts I award you: Two Stars out of Five.
If you must, listen to:
-Soundtrack to Your Life
-Shades of Blue