Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Review: Ben Lee’s “Ripe”

I was hoping to have time to write up an intro, but I gotta make this quick. Here’s my track-by-track rundown:

1. “Love Me Like the World is Ending”
This is quintessential Ben Lee snappy pop. If you’re reading this, you likely already know that this is the first single. It’s not the best song on the album, but it is the most recognizably Ben.

2. “American Television”
This is the song that I keep going back to. It’s got a great hook and you’ll undoubtedly find this song getting stuck in your head. It’s simple and catchy and possibly the CD’s best song.

3. “Birds & Bees”
A duet with Mandy Moore, their voices blend well and Mandy’s girlish voice matches Ben’s boyish one, but it’s not quite enough to rescue the song. Though it’s grown on me a bit, on the first listen I felt the song was/is weak.

4. “Is This How Love’s Supposed to Feel?”
Co-written by Charlotte Martin, it’s lyrically lacking and musically it’s not that exciting. Even Ben’s performance is lackadaisical. It’s almost as though he mailed this one in.

5. “Blush”
This is classic melancholic Ben Lee. This is certainly one of the better songs with its musical and lyrical flow hitting the mark. Nothing surprising or different, just a really good song.

6. “Numb”
This track is a big, fun song, pure and simple. I can easily picture a bunch of little kids singing background for this song. :-) This is a definite standout and shows how not overproducing a Ben Lee song can really make it work.

7. “What Would Jay-Z Do?”
Not nearly as clever as the name would lead you to believe, this song is dull, lifeless, and is easily my least favorite on this album.

8. “Sex Without Love”
Those of you who saw Ben in either of his last two tours here in the states will recognize this song. Written with Rooney’s Robert Carmine, this is a simple, effective song. And it has a cool, throwback, 80’s rock ending that’s cheesy-cool. And it’s fun to sing along with at his shows. Benji Madden from Good Charlotte makes a cameo, though he’d go completely unnoticed if you weren’t listening for him -- so much so that I’m not really sure why he’s there.

9. “Home”
There’s something sweetly nostalgic about this song. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but it makes me want to listen to it more. It’s not a standout, but I’ve found it’s gotten under my skin (in a good way).

10. “Hungry”
Musically the stanza of this song is dull, but the chorus is brilliant -- flowing and catchy.

11. “Just Say Yes”
Vocally, this is definitely the best song. Ben pushes beyond his boy-voice to create a more mature sound. This may well be the most well-crafted song, both musically and lyrically. It may not be as catchy as some of the other tracks, but it’s not meant to be. It’s truly a beautiful song. And that’s not something I often say about a Ben Lee song.

12. “Ripe”
Clever and insightful lyrics highlight this track. The only storytelling on this CD, it’s got hooky strings and it’s perfect length leaves you wanting more.

13. “Love” (Bonus Track)
This is the closest to rock that Lee comes on this album and I can’t wait to hear this one live, since he definitely wrote it with a live audience in mind. This may well turn into a fan favorite and it’s a fitting close to “Ripe.”

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