I guess I’m a jerk. I can’t help it. I’m a very critical person and I’m not trying to pass that off as a virtue. I’m really not. I’ve been sucked into the black vortex of iTunes and on occasion I listen to the free download of the week. This week it’s some young guy name Kyle Riabko. This is how iTunes (and probably everyone else, too) is selling his album:
Kyle Riabko has quite a resume for a 17-year-old. He's opened for Maroon 5, John Mayer, and blues great Buddy Guy. He also played all the guitar and bass parts on his album Before I Speak. Our free Single of the Week is one of his funkier tracks, "Do You Right."
First of all, my intent isn’t to be one of those bitter people who rip on everything around them, from fragrant spring blossoms (“They’re TOO fragrant. It’s making me sick.”) to the obese lady wearing a tube-top (“Why are tube tops back in? What fashion guru decided we needed to herald in another era of that unsightly style?”). You know, the kind of person who sucks the joy out of anything, even spring blossoms? Well, I’m not that person. I’m the person who, once her eyes have been opened, can’t go back to her ignorant, blind bliss (see Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”). Yes, I would dance around your comatose, staring figure, shouting myself hoarse that what you see is just a shadow of brilliance. So listen to me. What I’m saying is that I am one of those fools with ideals. When something falls short of my foolish ideals, I might say something. I just might.
And Kyle Riabko’s single of the week is weak. No really. I couldn’t pass that opportunity up. But it is. His voice is weak and there’s that irritating, polished, over-produced sound like what you get from a post-American Idol album (i.e., nothing but voice, while lacking a real emotional center). Plus he’s 17. And here’s the exact reason I’m a jerk: because I can’t listen to a 17-year old singing about love. I don’t know what’s gotten into me, but ever since I grew old (27), I can’t stand to listen to an inexperienced teenager calling a woman on. Who can? It’s like the momentarily popular Billy Gilman stuff. It’s embarrassing in its innocence. Not that innocence is a bad thing. Especially when 17-year old Kyle starts singing about how there's not another man who can do her right. Also, did Kyle write those lyrics? They suck. (“It’s time for show and tell, I need to do you right…”)
To Kyle, I will give him that the guitar solo is fantastic. The guitar itself has a sweet, buttery jazz sound and I love it. The drums are solid, except that sometimes the snare sound seems a little flat. The music itself isn’t bad. What’s bad is (what I interpret to be) the posing attitude of the entire song. The singer (remember, 17 years old) as a man. I don’t buy it. Great resume, you know, opening for Buddy Guy and John Mayer. But, as Stoker pointed out at the Keane show while Brenden Bensen was playing, a band doesn’t want an opening act that’s better than them. So Kyle’s resume does nothing for me. And also, he played all the guitar and bass parts on his new album? You’re kidding me. Right? How can this be?
I guess that’s a new thing for mainstream pop. So I’m a jerk. I’m sorry. Here are some links to several musicians who do most of he work on their albums, plus the production. (Player Hater) (Ani Difranco) (Bill Ricchini) (Now it's Overhead)