Having been a casual fan of Owl City since the “Fireflies” explosion, I’ve always been intrigued to hear his singles, always hoping that one song will sound different than the other. To be fair, Adam is one of the most sincere, humble and good-natured guys in music so it’s hard to root for his demise.
But let's just to the chase: his songs have little sonic weight. His newest single “Beautiful Times,” features the immensely popular violinist Lindsey Stirling but who in their right mind would absolutely know for certain that it was Stirling. In short, her violin part is far from exceptional or memorable. It could be my next door neighbor playing that violin reel and few would know the difference. And yet somehow having her name attached to the song will help the single chart.
Has it always been this way? Can an established name like Adam Young not just have some session violinist play on the track and leave it at that? I understand the want to emphasize the collaboration but Stirling doesn’t lend her vocals to the song and unless they’re touring partners she won’t be adding the violin part to the song in a live setting either. All of it just feels very contrived and Owl City is the last artist I'd associate with contrived.
I guess I’m just upset that Owl City’s team thinks Stirling's name on the project is what will help the single succeed. Can Adam not succeed on his own merits? Hasn’t he already done that in the past? As for the song, it’s same old Owl City, a sweet, earnest voice, a woozy if not hypnotic vibe and something pleasant and amiable to pass the next three or four minutes.
Does it make me want to rush out and buy the album? Absolutely not, nothing about Owl City’s output has ever given me that sensation. And yet I continue to feel piqued any time he releases a new single. I guess this means Owl City is a guilty pleasure. Sigh. Why must I always be a sucker for for cheap pop?
Somewhere inside all of us is a soul that craves pop-music. That portion of each of us may come out only sporadically, rarely and in some cases, far too often. But it exists and it sits inside all of us. This slow evolution of dance-inspired pop music has slowly unraveled, resulting in an untamed monster, spawning the likes of Ke$ha, One Direction andCarly Rae Jepsen, to name but a few. Call them guilty pleasures, call them one-trick ponies, the bottom line is they sing songs with mega-hooks. And it is that pop-music loving soul that craves these mega-hooks.
Enter the latest guilty pleasure: Action Item.
These five Jersey upstarts craft a slab of pop-rock that many would call cookie-cutter, derivative or banal. Hell it may be all three of those things, but one thing is for certain, this energetic quintet churns out some serious hook-heavy ear candy. Seen last night in Orlando on the Owl City Midsummer Station tour, the group was well-heeled, slickly polished and even self-effacing. Though they performed with the skill of a band many years their senior, they never let go of their youthful spirit. Their bubbly brightness married well their sun-drenched anthems and helped anchor a set that was both eye-opening and attention-grabbing. Touring in support of a self-financed documentary, Action Item are currently working on the finishing stages of an album due out later this fall. Working with a team of A-list producers, the band is drawing on their experiences opening up for the likes of Hot Chelle Rae, Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez and We the Kings, to name a few.
Snicker all you want, guilty pleasures lie inside us all, and there's a good chance that this time next year, a song by Action Item will bear that very title. You have been warned.