Listening to David’s sophomore pop album, “The Other Side of Down” is like opening a gift swathed in several layers of wrappers or boxes. Each layer, heightening the excitement; Each peeling, revealing or confirming another facet of David’s enigmatic persona.

This Time it’s Personal

So when David says “this album has more of me” and that “I want people to see me, hear me. It’s like re-introducing the real David Archuleta”, that’s exactly what we get – an album stamped with his personality and his own experiences. It brims with delightful pop textures, unbridled positivity and that quirky sense of “Davidism” on life and its challenges.

TOSOD makes you smile, moves you to tap your feet or bob your head or rekindle some not-so-distant romantic sentiments. Par for the course for a pop album, right? Well, not exactly.

Because TOSOD is anything but simple. At closer inspection, TOSOD reads like a coming-of-age novel. I hear it as a declaration a David’s transition from one life-stage to the next. It tells me growth, wisdom, insight, and the ways in which David develops a mature and conscious understanding and expression of himself and his circumstance.

As fans, we know only too well of David’s genteel side. He may be honest and to most of us, entertainingly candid, but David is unfailingly circumspect with his public dealings (although I would bet a Pad Thai dinner that he is the same even with his private interactions!)

By words and deeds, he is a man for others. His zeal in helping people and supporting his loved ones is probably only outweighed by his passion for music. Even when visibly dead tired, he would still make time for fans. And never one to hog the limelight, David tends to redirect the focus on others’ achievements. Heck, he even promotes other artists during his own promo tour!

Which makes “Who I Am”, a refreshing detour.

A “Me” Time for the Consummate Giver

Out of the 10 songs David co-wrote, there are about four songs which I find more introspective. “Who I Am” is one of those. But what makes “Who I Am” different is that for once, you hear David claim a “Me Time”. And wisely so.

I’m gonna take this moment that I’m in right now
Stop the craziness somehow
Leave it all behind me
And no one’s gonna find me…

The insatiable demands of others can be overwhelming. That’s why a “Me Time” is crucial. The book “Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget”, explains: “If you never have any time except reactive time — things you must do for others — you don’t have a sense of control”.

In “Who I Am”, David shows how he takes control from the whirring madness he finds himself in – even if it is just a brief time in a back of a cab. He shares the importance of stopping and taking stock of things with a humorous twist like ignoring a call from Jeff Fenster himself (there is that dry wit, again!).

It takes maturity to stake this claim and not be apologetic about it. To press the escape button when one needs it and be candid about it, I guess helps make a consummate giver like David continue to give.

It may get crazy at times, but David can always go back to who he is and never go wrong with the abundance that that entails.

The Medium is the Message

I really like how the melody and instrumentation were used to match the message of the song.

“Who I Am” starts with a situationer, placing David in the midst of a typical busy day. Listen to the music. You hear this semi-monotonous beat from a guitar that stays for the 1st two verses. It steps up in the 2nd verse but the repetitive thump persists.

Then you find a build-up which starts as soon as David declares “Days like these, it’s hard to breathe”, then release… you hear the melody metamorphose into this infectious chorus. More instruments join in – the piano, the drums and you get a euphony of sounds bearing an unmistakable celebratory jam.

In going back to “who he is”, the monotonous thump (regular verses) drops away leading to an exuberant groove (chorus). It’s like in claiming his “Me Time”, David is able to slip and slide between the crazy world of entertainment and his real life, while maintaining his balance.

The transformation becomes more pronounced after the bridge – when everything gets quiet except for the piano – yes the piano, not a guitar! See the symbolic shift? We all know that David is a piano man. So what starts out as a rhythmic guitar-led verse, crescendos into this brief, quiet piano-focused moment – cos we need to hear him out. At this point. his stake to claim is fulfilled and we are left with jubilant, liberating, declaratory kick-filled chorus to finish the song. Yeah!

The Craziness of Ranking

As I write this, the 1st week sales started coming in. And so begins the anguished, horrified and disappointed reactions from die-hard fans. What do you know? “Who I Am” has a message for those of us baffled by album’s 1st week sales.

Sometimes (sometimes)
You just know (just know)
When to hold on
When to let go

Of course we want the best for David. We wish a stellar musical career for him. Who has not dreamed of accolades and awards for all his hard work? We shake our heads, dumbfounded when we don’t even get to hear his songs on radio. Instead, we are treated to a barrage of mindless, same-sounding, cookie-cutter, badly written stuff that sell like hotcakes. This speaks volumes about the current state of radio-America, but that piece shall be saved for another day.

I think David has chosen his battles. Instead of kowtowing to Corporate America to create an image to sell to the fickle public, he chose to present authenticity. But by going against the grain, he risks his chances at instant, commercial success.

I got nothing to win and I got nothing to lose
Just trying to walk in my own two shoes
Gonna take the time now
It’s time for me to find out
Who I am

I think that as long he can keep making music, he is OK not being a super pop star. We should therefore take the cue from him.

He has given us a beautifully crafted record, a must-have for anyone who wants or needs to hear what feel-good, great-sounding pop music is all about, delivered with a superb, once in a lifetime vocal power. As fans, we have done our part. Let’s enjoy the music. Meantime, let’s see his Label genuinely push for this album. If it doesn’t, that’s s shame cos there are a lot of songs in this album that deserve airplay.

“Who I Am” is one of my personal favorites. It is deceptively simple. I suppose that’s what I love about it. Yet, it exemplifies how David has progressed through entirely new passages, into a life of deeper meaning. By going back to basics and doing what he does best: by being, as he would say with that megawatt smile, “Who I Am”.

– jackryan4DA

Click to Listen:

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ps: (21 Dec 201) David just announced his mission and this song takes a new meaning altogether. His “time for me” is actually time for his Faith… for his Mission. Things make so much more sense now