Release Date: 02.03.04
Record label: Sony
Folk + Pop = Flop
by: dave davies
When I first put Five for Fighting’s latest, The Battle for Everything in the CD player, I didn’t really expect to like it. Their sophomore release, America Town (they had an album before this, Message for Albert, that went fairly unnoticed), really only had one veritable “hit” – the omnipresent supermarket ballad “Superman (It’s Not Easy).” And frankly, it wasn’t that shabby of a song. The rest of America Town, however, was palpable proof of the theory that the ala carte buying capabilities of services like iTunes and Napster really do serve a purpose. America Town, as a whole, was a rather disposable record, and an example of a band trying desperately to break out of one-hit-wonderdom (but failing quite miserably).
As for The Battle for Everything… well, it’s a pretty similar case. The difference, however, is that the first single “100 Years” is missing that special something that made “Superman” the smash it was. Not that it’s a bad song, but it really seems to try quite hard to repeat the success of its predecessor. There’s the cute little piano, but above that its once again an exploration of self and being small in a big world and all that other schlock-ey stuff that can either make a band sound intelligent or just plain desperate. “100 Years” doesn’t go quite that far, but it sure does sound like a planned Oscar clip.
That being said, “100 Years” (like “Superman”) is the absolute high point of the album. Elsewhere John Ondrasik and his crew continue their exploration of the less-enthralling side of singer/songwriter culture. Rather than a full embrace of the culture, Five for Fighting (like genre compatriots Train) tend to stick much closer to the pop/adult contemporary sound – ultimately leaving their music as a perfect CD for the listener who really doesn’t get into music, but likes to look cool by having something that sounds like Americana to someone who hasn’t every really heard any Americana before. It’s unbelievably safe music – music that’s hard to hate, but even harder to truly like.
Like “Superman,” which found its ultimate home on adult contemporary radio and the music tracks played throughout Home Depots nationwide, The Battle for Everything is music that doesn’t offend, nor inspire. Rather it just exists, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s just…
Oh hell, it’s just not very good. 11-Mar-2004 9:00 AM