Secondhand Serenade – Hear Me Now
Record Label: ILG/Glassnote
Release Date: August 3, 2010
Only one year after releasing 2007’s acoustic Awake under the pseudonym Secondhand Serenade, John Vesely released the more multifaceted follow-up, A Twist In My Story in 2008, an album that sold over 250,000 copies as well as spawned over 2.2 million singles, including the breakthrough hit “Fall For You,” which reached platinum sales as a single. Now two years later, Vesely is back with his third record on Glassnote Records, Hear Me Now, the majority of which was produced by Aaron Johnson (The Fray).
Whereas A Twist In My Story dealt lyrically with Vesely’s recent divorce, making the entire record about that relationship, Secondhand Serenade travel in a dissimilar course with Hear Me Now, a more encouraging direction regarding moving on from mistakes. Despite this, the overall sound is incredibly analogous to that of A Twist In My Story, ultimately pleasing fans of Secondhand’s previous record, though becoming a hindrance to listeners longing for more inventiveness and originality from the band.
The somber “Distance” begins Hear Me Now, a track that would fit perfectly on Awake; although the track is indeed catchy, there is no overall growth lyrically or musically. With lyrics such as “miles and miles pass by/and I’m alone/my eyes feel like they’re bleeding/but I’m just crying,” the track parallels all of Vesely’s lyrical work on the two prior records, demonstrating no lyrical development or structural advancements. Beginning with soft, enchanting piano play, it’s clear why the following “Something More” was chosen as a single – Vesely’s vocals, reminiscent of One Republic’s Ryan Tedder, sound better than ever. On this track, he’s able to hit pitches never heard from Secondhand Serenade before. While there is no question that Vesely’s vocals excel on this track, his lyrics again offer minimal true substance being them.
Upbeat tracks (“Stay Away,” “So Long,” and the techno-backed “You and I”) all feature contagious choruses, something Secondhand Serenade thrive on – radio hits. In fact, “Stay Away” could readily be a massive radio hit, as it is hands down one of the catchiest songs Secondhand Serenade have ever written. Conversely, these slight diversities on Hear Me Now were clearly written for radio and are deterred by tracks such as “Is Anybody Out There,” a track that sounds almost exactly like ATIMS’s “Goodbye,” another impediment to Hear Me Now, as it continues to lack any true diversity and experimentation.
Again, slower tracks such as “Reach For The Sky” and Vesely driven “World Turns” are both reminiscent of Vesely’s stripped-down acoustic work on Awake, further demonstrating little progression from Secondhand’s previous work. In this way, Hear Me Now is a carbon copy of Secondhand Serenade’s two previous records; that is, until the ultimate poignant “Hear Me Now” ends the record, proving that Secondhand saved the best for last. Alike to on All Time Low’s fantastic “Remembering Sunday,” Automatic Loveletter’s Juliet Simms absolutely kills on her spot on this beautifully emotional rollercoaster. Combined with Vesely’s incredible vocals, Simms makes this track the perfect closer, let alone the best track in Secondhand Serenade’s entire discography.
Nonetheless, despite this memorable finale, Vesely’s hackneyed lyrical structure and Secondhand’s lack of overall musical growth truly deter the record as a whole. Sure, standout tracks such as the catchy “Stay Away” and the powerful “Hear Me Now” do aid to make up for these flaws, but they in no way do enough to make these faults diminish entirely. That said, Secondhand Serenade have done exactly what they set out to do: crafted a record sure to result in a number of bombastic radio hits and record sales, utilizing the idea that “if it aint broke, don’t fix it” to accomplish just this with Hear Me Now.