This winter, a soft, humble plea for closure came on the radio.
A Great Big World’s “Say Something” captivated hopeless romantics and troubled teens — its vocals shaky but stern, its melody light but haunting.
But if you’re looking for the slow build and soft power that the chart-topper hashed out, you won’t find it on the duo’s album “Is There Anybody Out There?”
Whereas “Say Something” serves as a theme song for the broken, “Is There Anybody Out There?” is fast-paced and happy-go-lucky, stuffed with condescendingly cliché verses about the stars, the sea and life getting better (they promise!).
As I heard the album beginning to end, I tried to picture when I would listen to it — on the bus? No. Studying? Nope.
It’s so cheesy, it probably only plays while couples cook Sunday breakfast together, reaching over each other to flip eggs and laughing while they do it.
The two singers consistently alternate — sometimes Ian Axel’s nerdy-folk voice will take lead, like in “Say Something.” Then Chad Vaccarino — the guy you didn’t even know was in the band — rings in, his voice deeper, more boring.
Neither of them have much range — you can tell when they squeak at higher notes and squawk at lower ones. But there’s a comfort in that. They aren’t the powerhouse pop group they never promised to be. Instead, the duo’s awkward harmony boasts a talk-singing Broadway vibe coupled with the hopefulness of a Santa Monica street band – think fun. meets One Direction.
The “Everyone is Gay” track, for instance, starts and ends with a bumpy back track that makes it feel childish. Even the lyrics made me roll my eyes —“If you’re gay then you’re gay … If you’re straight well that’s great.” This is only repeated in songs like “I Really Want It” with lines like “I’m not giving up” and “All you need is inside yourself.”
I tried hard to relate to “Is There Anybody Out There?” but the whole album felt like two dudes sat down and tried to write what they thought music should be instead of pouring out their personal experiences like “Say Something” suggested they would.
The album is available for $9.99 on iTunes.
[A version of this story ran on page 10 on 2/13/2014 under the headline "A Great Big World’s new album disappoints"]