Rob Thomas Keeps It At Room Temperature On “The Great Unknown”

Rob Thomas

The Great Unknown

August 21, 2015 (Emblem/Atlantic)

Grade: C+

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These words are hard to say about the lead singer and chief songwriter of my favorite band: Rob’s third solo album is by far the most disappointing work of his I’ve heard. Following 2005’s Something To Be… and 2009’s CradlesongThe Great Unknown lacks the personalized lyrics and themes of the last two albums, especially Cradlesong. Many of the new tracks have awfully vague lyrics that aren’t really referring to anything at all. Lead single “Trust You”, besides it’s reliance on the repetition of a phrase as mundane as “trust you”, manifests itself with oblique songwriting such as “When you say, ‘hey, come on’/I know, I really really want to”. The same can be seen in the title track.

Beyond all, songs like “Trust You” display a desire for Rob to write a pop hit, instead of intimate, personalized tracks like he has in the past. This approach works if there’s enough variation in the lyrics to demonstrate that some degree of thought went into the track, such as his former smash hits “Smooth” and “Lonely No More”.

The last two paragraphs create the appearance that this album sucks. Which isn’t necessarily true; there are many satisfying tracks present. “Hold On Forever” is a mellow acoustic-driven ballad that’ll make you smile. “Wind It Up” has the lyrical variation I pinpointed earlier, and also showcases a banjo. Who doesn’t love a banjo? “One Shot” is an uplifting track about, well, YOLO, as if there’s not an abundance of other terms at my disposal. Finally, “Things You Said”, boast the one element Thomas always has one his side: his voice, not the the black man who interjects at the two minute mark asking, “You wanna be loved by someone? Then LOVEEEEE someone!” Because at the end of the day, the man can make anything sound like the most charming rendition of “Blackbird” you’ve ever heard, which is apparent on piano-ballad closer “Pieces”.

Standout Tracks: “Hold On Forever”, “Wind It Up”, “One Shot”, “Things You Said”, “Heaven Help Me”, “Pieces”.

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