Rob Thomas – Something to Be
Record Label: Atlantic
Release Date: April 5 2005
Rob Thomas is one of those musicians that is still relevant, even more than 20 years after he entered the music industry. While he’s most known for his work with 90s alternative band Matchbox Twenty (who is still pumping out records and touring today, too), he’s also got a string of solo records, where he went into a much different direction musically. While Matchbox Twenty sounds like The Goo Goo Dolls, Lifehouse, and Train, Rob Thomas’ solo material brings to mind Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke, and even some Michael Jackson. His solo work is much more pop-influenced, yet with still a rock edge. The rock sound never disappeared, but it’s not the main focus of his solo material. It takes over in some tracks, but it’s not the core of his sound. It’s meant to be different from Matchbox Twenty.
Being that it’s a pop/pop-rock record, the best way to describe debut record Something to Be is a mixed bag, so to speak. Some tracks are great and some aren’t. What works, really works. What doesn’t, doesn’t. Thankfully, this is a record with many more triumphs than failures. There are a couple of things that slightly bug me about the record, but I’ll get to those later on. First let’s talk about the good things. I mentioned how when a song works, it really works. There are plenty of those on this record. I do appreciate the diversity on the album, and that’s the main thing I enjoy. I did say that there is a bit of a rock vibe to this record, and that’s true, but there’s much more, such as pop, pop-rock, blues, R&B, jazz, Latin, you name it. If you wanted to be general, it’s mainly a pop record, but it’s a pop record with diversity and substance. That’s not something music listeners hear every so often, especially a record like this. Because it’s not something heard often, this record is one that certainly can stick out to you. In fact, the first few songs really do stick out. Immediately when the record starts, there’s a one-two punch of first track “This Is How a Heart Breaks” and “Lonely No More.” What’s rather funny is that I’ve heard “Lonely No More” before, but I never knew it was by Rob Thomas. I thought it was done another male singer from the early 00s, so when I realized it was Rob Thomas, I was quite happy, because I always enjoyed this song. Eight years later, it still holds up quite nicely. And it’s also one of the catchiest songs I’ve ever heard. These first two tracks are two of the best songs on the record, if not the best. On one hand, that’s a bit saddening, just because the best songs should not be in the beginning of the album, unless every song is great. On the other, these tracks are great opening tracks. “This Is How a Heart Breaks” is rather “in your face,” but yet obnoxious or annoying. It’s got a great hook, and Thomas’ vocals are quite strong on this track, along with “Lonely No More.” Both songs have a nice R&B/soulful vibe running throughout, including some female vocals on the former track. The latter track also has a rather Latin vibe running through it, too, which makes it that much cooler and smoother.
Despite his vocals being great on these two songs, they are a bit of an issue on the rest of this record, though; for the most part, they’re great, but they don’t seem to mesh well on some tracks, such as fourth track “I Am An Illusion” and “When the Heartache Ends.” The former has a really cool instrumental within it, but Thomas’ vocals seem a bit out of place. The same can be said for the latter track, too, along with a few others. These aren’t necessarily bad songs, they just fall short, because they seem rather odd. A majority of the songs on the record also kind of blend into one another as well, with the exception of a few. The title track is one that definitely stands out, and it’s nice it appears about halfway in. The only other song that really sticks out to me is eleventh track “Streetcorner Symphony.” This is another bluesy/soulful track that also has John Mayer playing guitar, which is pretty cool. It’s a very laid back and groovy track that can really stuck in your head, if you’re not careful. The album ends with “Now Comes the Night,” which is one of the few ballads that appear on the record. It’s a nice change of pace from the beginning of the record, which is really hook-oriented and immediately sucks you, the listener, in. This song is nice, and quiet, which ends the record on a nice note.
As with most pop record, this record is a mixed bag, as I mentioned in the beginning of the review. Some songs really work, like the title track, “Lonely No More,” and “This Is How a Heart Breaks.” Some songs don’t work, though. The songs aren’t necessarily awful, but just don’t do much for me. And some of the record also does tend to run together a bit, which leave the more memorable songs to stand out just a bit more. And Thomas’ voice is really good, but at some points, it does sound rather odd, with the music behind it. His lyrics, too, aren’t really any different from Matchbox Twenty, so if there’s one area where the record does excel, it’s that. His lyrics aren’t any different, so if you’re looking for Matchbox Twenty-esque lyrics, you won’t be disappointed at all. If you’re a Matchbox Twenty fan, and looking for his solo records to be just like them, you’ll be severely disappointed, but you still may end up enjoying it (or at least a handful of songs) anyway.