Being a fan during the TOSOD Era© is a different animal now than it was during American Idol. While on AI, the unique quality of David’s voice hit you like a mallet, but in David’s pop offerings we find that his voice becomes more like an ingredient instead of the main course. But David’s much more extensive involvement in the crafting of TOSOD means that we can see what is uniquely “David” in the songs themselves.

Elevator

Contrary to what seems to be a prevailing opinion on these boards, I would like to come out and admit that Elevator is one of my FAVORITE songs on the album. True to David’s philosophy that this album will reveal more quirky and fun side, Elevator is a unique burst of creativity that bakes a sing-song pop ditty out of a dough of spaciness and confusion. Who da thunk?

The melody goes up and down like a carnival balloon. The rhythm of the notes is infectious. The lyrics paint vivid mind pictures and meld wonderfully with the melody. It’s clear that one way David deals with the ups and downs of his life is to step back from it all and whistle a happy tune, and a catchy one at that.

Mike’s rhythmic guitar hook sets the mood from the beginning, at a somewhat hasty tempo. (I especially the love the guitar lick you hear for the first time right before David sings “I had a dream…”) And then David, always expressive and deliberate with his singing choices, comes in with that flirty quick vibrato in his voice that adds a bit of soul and playfulness into what would otherwise be straight pop. (Compare the first lyric he sings to how it would sound if someone banged it on a piano.)

If we’ve seen Weighty, Mature, Full-Of-Gravitas David in the past, then this clearly must be Playful David. This is “Works for Me” David. This is another refracted view into the mind of a young man with many dimensions, who can write in several musical genres, who sees music as a field for expression and play.

The verses are a carousel ride, with imaginative lyrics, and the melody going up and down is a nice tie-in to the song’s metaphor. But I’m not a fan of the chorus: it delves a bit into generic territory. If the thought was that it might help to make it easier to sing along to, for radio purposes, then I think this was a misstep – it’s the playfulness in the verses that are the actual hook of the song. (Also, in the Regis & Kelly video below, David sings the “High…” line right after the bridge, which I think was a missed opportunity in adding a great hook to the song, perhaps starting with the end of the 2nd chorus.) However, the last chorus is a wonderful mixture of all the melodic lines from the song coming at you at once.

Making It a Single

The first leak of Elevator divided the fan community, and it hasn’t been a hit. But perhaps I can venture as to why the decision to release it was made.

David’s challenge at this point in his career is a more difficult one than it was in 2008. Back then, while riding off his post-AI exposure, he just needed a solid, catchy song to find commercial success.

But today, he has two simultaneous yet contradictory goals: first, to find a solid, catchy pop song (that brings him back from relative obscurity), and second, to find a song that “sells” David as an artist for the long term, that shows how unique he is and makes him “relevant” to a new and young generation. But how to “sell” his “brand,” when his very essence is his eclecticism, both musically and personally?

With Something ‘Bout Love, his management tried to have David “break out” as a dance/pop artist. Now with Elevator, they hope to have David “break out” as a pop/alternative artist. (I’m probably misusing these labels, but you get what I mean.) And now we have the recent press coverage that clearly shows they’re playing up his “silly,” “dorky” side, and Elevator definitely shows this. Elevator is, without a doubt, unique. (Would any other artist have come up with something like this? :)) However, that elusive magic combination of popular-but-defining has not been discovered yet.

As for why Elevator song hasn’t hit, the main reason for me is that its message is a bit obscure. One can hear that same melodic, expressive male alternative/folk/pop vibe, a la Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” and Train’s “Hey Soul Sister,” but those songs also had the advantage of being about romantic love. David, though several years these other artists’ junior, is exploring more serious themes, I’m afraid.

The Regis & Kelly Performance

Ahh, but we will see. Although lightning hasn’t struck yet, there is much… ahem, simmering beneath the surface. A look at David’s recent performance of Elevator reveals a leather-clad, markedly older and gosh-dang sexier young man than we haven’t quite seen before. But he’s that same unique, whistle-when-life-brings-you-down, jaunty David that we all know and love. Although David works very hard not to work it, it doesn’t work and he just works it.

Sexiness aside, this is a phenomenon we’ve seen before: once David gets into a song that feels like his own, he becomes another persona. And of course, this song is his own! But more than that, with Elevator we have a song that brings out that confessedly-dorky-and-playful, I-think-it’s-alright-to-just-be-myself David. It brings out his inner extrovert. He is markedly more relaxed and at ease, pumping his shoulder and flirting with the camera. (I especially love 2:26 to 2:30.) And it doesn’t hurt that this more confident David is newly yummy and schmexy.

Although Elevator hasn’t “hit,” it’s nice to see that it is showing the world more of that real David his fans already love. And it stands as another landmark for his own evolution.

Click to Listen:
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