Lee DeWyze, the 24-year-old paint shop kid from Chicago, won the hearts of American Idol voters (And mine, if you can recall my oldest posts here) with a voice as scruffy as his scruff, his beloved guitar, and standout performances of covers like “The Boxer” and “Treat Her Like a Lady.” Already an established local musician, Mr. D. had already released two full-length albums before his Idol stint. Now nearly six months after being crowned the series’ ninth winner, the sensitive bluesy rocker gets to show what he’s really made of in his major-label debut album, Live it Up.
The eleven-track collection showcases DeWyze’s gift for songwriting and a distinct and substantial musical style that sounds heavily influenced by a myriad of classic and contemporary artists, from Elton John to Dave Matthews, from Jason Mraz to Train. If you had to categorize the album, it’d be of the acoustic/piano rock genre—and that’s not a bad place to be in.
The title track and opener was originally slated to be DeWyze’s debut single, but at the last minute, was changed to “Sweet Serendipity,” with its tongue-tier of a chorus and bouncy melody. Although “Live it Up” is a little bit closer to the more mellow feel of the album, I believe the right choice was made to debut “Sweet Serendipity” instead. It blends in quite nicely with what’s on top 40 and adult contemporary radio today. Besides, the message of “Live it Up” is almost similar to the previous Idol winner Kris Allen’s debut single “Live Like We’re Dying”—just that Allen’s song was much more socially conscious and DeWyze’s idea of living life to the fullest is pursuing a brown-haired girl with hazel eyes. Just kidding, totally different songs. But I still think the radio-friendliness and joyful sound makes “Sweet Serendipity” a better debut single for DeWyze.
While there are a few tracks that have no effect on me one way or another and one that sounds almost like that god awful “Hey Soul Sister” (“Stay Here” is the title of the DeWyze version), most of them are excellent and would make interesting additions to anyone’s playlist. I feel a little inclined to say that “Brooklyn Bridge” is my personal favorite track from the album because of my love for New York City and because the title itself reminds me of a certain precious little movie that Joseph Gordon-Levitt starred in. But more than that, the jazzy piano ballad feels like the freshest breath of air and has a whole lot of heart AND soul to it. “Beautiful Like You” and “Dear Isabelle” sounds like a rejected One Republic song and “Hey There Delilah” part two in Chicago, respectively, but I guess I must really appreciate that because I love how these two songs sound. A rousing rock ballad, “Me and My Jealousy,” is another standout, and should probably be included in a movie trailer for any upcoming romantic drama. In fact, the entire album could make for a good film soundtrack. The melodies, use of a variety of instruments, and the depth DeWyze brings to his lyrics and the songs themselves are both indie and Hollywood-worthy. If you think Live it Up is a cheesy record, well, there’s a place in the world for cheesy.
While the album could’ve strayed away from sounding a little too much like other mainstream songs, DeWyze’s debut is a pretty solid musical treat. Listen to it on your coffee break. Or better yet, if you want to feel like you’re in a film that combines both adorable and angsty with [insert your favorite leading man or lady here].
OVERALL SCORE: 7.5/10