Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Review: 'Genuine & Counterfeit' by William Beckett

It's a shame that "pop" seems to be such a four letter word in music circles.  It's often regarded as mindless, mass-produced for radio play and little else.  It isn't a completely unwarranted criticism, but still unfortunate for an entire genre to be so completely disregarded.  Luckily, every once in a while you get an artist that showcases just how powerful pop music can be, and William Beckett definitely takes up the cause.  Formerly the lead singer of the excellent The Academy Is... (Santi is still a criminally underrated album, in my opinion) Beckett has branched out on his own since the band's dissolution.  While his subsequent EPs have been solid, none have really grabbed me.  Luckily, his first true full-length, Genuine & Counterfeit, has come out of nowhere to become a strong contender for the most unexpected hit of the year.

If you've listened to Beckett or The Acadmy Is... before, you know you're getting a great voice, solid hooks, and some clever, catchy melodies.  That's no different here, opening with "Pick up the Phone" (with a cameo by Say Anything's Max Bemis), "In My Blood," and deserved first single "Benny & Joon."  "Hanging on a Honeymoon," my personal favorite track, rounds out the pop tour de force that is first third of the album.

"Turn on the Light" marks a distinct transition in tone; it's a little smoother, a little more easy going, but you'll still be tapping your foot all along.  What follows are more ballad-tinged tunes rather than straight-up pop, but it still works.  Beckett carries every song beautifully regardless of the tempo, and his voice has enough inherent charm seeping through every track that you can't help but smile during all of them.

Genuine & Counterfeit, perhaps especially for a pop album, has tremendous range and variety.  It absolutely relies on the strength of Beckett, from his vision for each song to his skill as a vocalist.  It's clever, it's funny, it's emotional, and it's powerful, and if you can't look past the pop label to get to that, then I'm not sure any album will get you to do so.  If Genuine & Counterfeit is only the beginning of William Beckett's solo career, he's got a long, successful road ahead of him.

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