Artist: Drake Bell
Album: A Reminder EP
Genre: Pop, melodic pop
Label: Drake Bell Entertainment, Inc.
Nickelodeon alumni Drake Bell has put together this slight, if enjoyable, package of songs as a buffer before the eventual release of a full length next year. Perhaps fittingly titled A Reminder, its four songs take a jazzy and vaguely inventive approach to his pop rock sound, presumably aiming for a slicker and more mature effect and even succeeding, to a certain extent.
Opening track “Terrific” is a very likable tune, fading in on a kind of otherworldly and distorted note. It’s faint and melancholic, with lethargic vocals and an acoustic guitar layered over gentle, complementary instruments and some slight programming to add to the dreamy and indistinct vibe. As it progresses, the sound swells somewhat to envelope all in a nice gushing crescendo that ends things on an assured and compelling note.
“You’re Not Thinking” takes an entirely different approach, with a rhythmic and playful introduction affording a first glimpse of the jazzy, streetwise sound Bell seems to be aiming for. The vocals kick in more or less immediately, providing an injection of energy and life to completely offset the slow-burning opening track. The instruments are less synthetic and some colourful backing vocals add a certain touch of realism to the sound. There’s a brief and ill-judged lurch into somberness with an underlying string section for the latter half – this seems to indicate some discomfort with the maturity of the tone showcased throughout, but that aside the track is decent and catchy.
“Big Shot” is ushered into life by a big, boisterous piano, keeping with the style of its predecessor. It’s a chirpy and happy-go-lucky number that’s all slick keynotes and clearly looking to capture some of the classier elements of yesteryear. For all that this comes across a little contrived, it’s difficult to dislike, the rather random guitar solo in the middle doing little to detract from a natural and easygoing atmosphere. “Speak My Mind” then makes for a poppier conclusion, with a dull guitar riff opening proceedings before the song revisits the suave keys that have spearheaded the music throughout. This snazzy approach is well combined with the guitar to create an edgier and very enjoyable sound, though if one has to nitpick his vocals aren’t quite as earnest as they should be to seal the deal. The basic formula is good however (another very out-of-place guitar solo aside) and with a little development and a touch of pizzazz in the singing, this could excel on a full length.
To summarize thus, A Reminder is an entertaining miniature collection, with some perfectly timed seasonal treats that ought to go down well for easy listening during the summer. There is evidence of a keener eye and ear in Bell’s approach that may let him stand apart from the rest in his future endeavors, though he has always been better than his teenybopper credentials may imply. A little cheesy perhaps, but a comforting listen.
Review written by: Grace Duffy