Release Date: Aug 21, 2015
Record label: Atlantic
Returning to solo status after the 2012 Matchbox 20 reunion -- this time, the group didn't go on hiatus; they merely took a break while their singer pursued other projects -- Rob Thomas decided to broaden his horizons on 2015's The Great Unknown by working with a variety of different producers and collaborators this time around. Still on board in an executive producer role is Matt Serletic (the producer who's worked with Thomas for nearly 20 years), and the singer/songwriter also enlists OneRepublic mastermind Ryan Tedder and Jason Derulo/Jessie J producer Ricky Reed to give him a modern pop life. This new blood is notable on The Great Unknown, which is considerably livelier than 2009's contemplative Cradlesong.
Don't let the title fool you: Rob Thomas remains a known quantity on his third solo album. While that means there aren't many surprises, the good news is he's still the same consummate pop-rock craftsman who has been making it all sound so smooth for years. Reunited with Matchbox Twenty producer Matt Serletic, Thomas piles on the hooks right from the opener, "I Think We'd Feel Good Together," a soulful come-on.
There’s something tellingly impersonal about Rob Thomas’ third solo album. The songs offer few individualized lyrical details, and no consistent themes, to pin on a particular person. The arrangements, likewise, have a slick adaptability that makes these songs serviceable cover material for any pop star of the hour. These are trademarks of an artist who writes songs to please others rather than to express himself.
Rob Thomas has had success as the front man for Matchbox Twenty, a solo artist, and a songwriter and vocalist for hire over the last 20 years by adhering to a classic pop formula: catchy melodies, lyrics straightforward in their universality, and crisp production. On his third solo album, “The Great Unknown,” Thomas continues briskly down the middle of the road with a collection of jaunty pop ditties, brooding midtempo rockers, and heartfelt piano ballads. The best of these, like “Absence of Affection” and “Hold on Forever,” are pleasant earworms.