Review : Jon McLaughlin - OK Now
ThefishSounds like … glossy AC pop reminiscent of Mark Schultz, Michael W. Smith, Scott Krippayne, Dave Barnes, and Matt WertzAt a glance … compared to McLaughlin's impressive 2007 debut, the glossy pop songs of OK Now lack the depth and distinctive hooks to be as memorableTrack Listing Beating My Heart 4 Years You Can Never Go Back Thing That You Say The Middle You Are the One I Love Always On My Mind Smack Into You Dance Your Life Away Why I'm Talking to You Throw My Love Around We All Need Saving
It's been just 15 months since Jon McLaughlin made his national debut with Indiana, but a lot has happened in that time. Strong reviews and various movie soundtrack appearances had already made him a rising star, but then his music sales spiked the day after the 25-year-old singer/songwriter performed "So Close" from Enchanted on the 2008 Academy Awards. From there, he's only gained exposure by touring with Sara Bareilles, Duffy, Kelly Clarkson, and other prominent names. It's a good thing he was able to strike while the iron was hot by quickly recording a follow-up … or is it?
Largely produced by John Fields (Jonas Brothers, Lifehouse), OK Now finds McLaughlin broadening his sound from the more organic piano-pop of his previous release. The stylistic variation works when the hooks are strong and the style is focused. "Dance Your Life Away" is a fun, fluffy throwback to '80s rock about living for the moment, and "Why I'm Talking to You" uses soulful '70s pop—sorta like Billy Joel meets Stevie Wonder—as a pickup line to the hot chick at a party.
Too often, however, the pop exploration makes McLaughlin's sound indistinct and generic. Much of that is due to the songwriting. With little more than atmosphere going for them, the songs gravitate toward simplistic and repetitive relationship sentiments ("Always on My Mind, "Smack Into You"). At least "Throw My Love Around" succeeds in spite of that, only because it has a better written melody....full text
ClevelandleaderJon McLaughlin has risen from the farmlands of The Midwest to the shining beacons of New York City and Los Angeles to showcase his style of songwriting. He returns with yet another album on Ok Now. “Beating My Heart” which is this disc’s first single opens up everything with a twinkling piano accompaniment followed by rich falsetto, light strummings and pop rock sensibilities. “Four Years” is a bit harsher than “Beating My Heart” but still has that mainstream quality to his style with softer tones and funkier grooves as this could be this year’s college graduation anthem.
McLaughlin offers up a flowery ballad with “Things That You Say” as he aembraces fully the singer/songwriter motif that he’s been getting known for since his inception into the music business as he utilizes a smoky tenor note behind heart-wrenching piano, orchestral arrangements and warm guitars. “The Middle” is more laid-back than “Things That You Say” as it’s a stripped-down composition of acoustics and Jon tickling the ivory bars with hints of guitar and snares creating a nice contemporary sound. He brings a cross between soft rock and pop music with “Always On My Mind” as it’s a lovely track showing his devotion to that special someone set to uplifting rhythms and soulful melodies....full text
JesusfreakhideoutAround the time of his first full length studio album release last year, no one really knew who Jon McLaughlin was. The winds of change blew quickly though. After a phenomenal and highly acclaimed performance of the song "So Close" at the 80th Academy Awards, word spread like wildfire and led to the rapid release of his second album OK Now, and if anything's for sure, it's hot like wildfire too.
The first single, the pop anthem "Beating My Heart," has taken off and is in regular rotation at Adult Contemporary radio stations across the country. One thing to take note of is a somewhat of a fundamental change in musical style, especially on the quirky track "You Can Never Go Back," which introduces an almost disco-like feel that is sure to be an either love-it or hate-it song for most. The Elvis-reminiscent "Why I'm Talking to You" is another standout, while tracks like "You Are the One I Love" and "Things That You Say" bring back some of McLaughlin's original, toned-down style.
Messages dig deep on the album too. Speaking directly to the teen audience, "4 Years" takes a stab at reminding them that who you surround yourself with can make or break you as a person. The moral filled song "The Middle" finds Jon writing about lessons learned and admitting past mistakes ("Let me tell you now where I went wrong/Hollywood is just another place I don't belong"). "We All Need Saving" is a near-chilling closing track of faith that seals the deal to make this a great record.
There is one minor negative program note to mention, however. A track that was originally on the album, "Smack Into You," was unfortunately cut. A low tempo ballad, the song literally defines Jon's entire musical substance and his record label would be smart to release it at some point, as there is no doubt it would be a fan favorite.
Taking a risk doesn't always work out. OK Now is an exception to that. The new combination of Jon McLaughlin's original folk/piano rock sound with a new more pop spin heard here comes off as a clear winner and will unquestionably captivate fans until the next time around....full text
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