One of my favorites in the singer-songwriter genre, Ben Rector has made a career out of feel good songs filled with melody, wit, and optimism. In honor of the upcoming release of his newest album Magic (out 6/22) I went back through his catalogue and picked some of my favorites from his outputs thus far.
“Brand New” (from Brand New) – An absolutely relentless pop song. There’s the constant pulse of the kick drum, the chorus lines accented by yells, a wordless hook, and lyrics so energized it makes you want to drink three Red Bulls and run around in a field. It’s Rector’s biggest hit to date and not difficult to see why.
“Crazy” (from Brand New) – The most underrated characteristic often found Rector’s songwriting – humor. It’s subtle in most cases but far more direct here with him sarcastically singing about how making pasta, watching Netflix and buying birthday cards qualifies as a “crazy” life. Rector’s every man qualities are among his most endearing and this song is the strongest example of that.
“Dance With Me Baby” (from Into The Morning) – The shuffling drums give this one an almost bluegrass kind of tone. The melody here is one of Rector’s best – linear yet free flowing. This song has such a strong forward momentum that it’s barely noticeable that almost 5 minutes have passed by the time it’s done.
“Let The Good Times Roll” (from Something Like This) – A Motown love letter right down to the horn stabs and active vocal ambiance in the background. It’s become a staple of Rector’s live shows where he enlists the audience to sing the song’s instantly memorable refrain.
“Life Keeps Moving On” (from The Walking In Between) – Rector outlines that life is “beautiful and tragic” but largely leaves it up to you to decide whether or not life constantly moving is a good thing. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure kind of song. The track has a Randy Newman feel which compliments the tune well.
“Loving You Is Easy” (from Into The Morning) – Sure, a chorus that connects love to 1,2,3s and A,B,Cs is very Sesame Street but it’s not an easy songwriting device to convincingly flesh out for a whole song. Rector pulls it off by embracing the silliness of it (The song begins with the gloriously cheesy “Loving you is elementary”). The benefits of using such simple language as a hook? It makes for an all-too-easy ear worm.
“Never Gonna Let You Go” (from Something Like This) – The cool electric piano drives a easy feeling groove that like much of Something Like This, sounds like an homage to early soul music. Even in one of his most assertive songs Rector remembers he has ask permission and make nice with his lady’s family.
“Sailboat” (from The Walking In Between) – A metaphor song that’s redolent enough on its own where it’s more of a theme and less a direct premise on which the song is based. Lines like “I’ve seen the sun, felt the rain on my skin,” and “Night after night there’s an empty horizon,” stand on their own just fine. It’s one of the few Rector songs that gradually crescendos, making for a satisfying grand finale.
“Thank God For The Summertime” (from The Walking In Between) – “No cares and I’m doing fine” Rector sings in arguably the most upbeat song from a catalogue full of them. Summer may be the chosen back drop but the setting of a homemade whiffleball league barely qualifies it as a seasonal song. The laid back vibe would make Sam Cooke, who Rector name checks as being “played through the speakers,” proud.
“The Men That Drive Me Places” (from Brand New) – The premise of the song is well known – it’s about conversations Rector had with cab drivers and their hectic and somewhat heartbreaking everyday life. With only a sparse cello and piano accompaniment Rector lays out his story in a way that’s poignant and satisfying. This is his strongest display of songwriting craft.
And of course, a few obligatory honorary mentions! “Making Money,” “Forever Like That,” “Favorite Song,” and “Wanna Be Loved.”
FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER -> @PatrickGoesPop