If music were a drug, Gavin DeGraw would be my dealer. The musician’s fourth studio album just dropped last week, and I was addicted as soon as the sound hit my ears.
There’s just something so catchy and unique about DeGraw both as a singer-songwriter and as a musician. Whether it’s his raspy, warm voice or his raw talent on the keyboard, DeGraw undoubtedly deserves way more recognition than just being “that guy who sings the theme song from ‘One Tree Hill.’”
The opening title track, “Sweeter,” admittedly sounds nothing like the tender, soulful piano-driven ballads DeGraw typically is known for. Instead, DeGraw’s piano playing is upstaged by the uncharacteristic intensity of the electric guitar, and his lyrics sound anything but sweet as he sings about trying to steal another guy’s girl.
Why the new sound? For the first time, DeGraw chose to work with co-writers in order to dabble in various styles of music. From OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder to Weezer’s producer Butch Walker, his talented co-writers challenged DeGraw to venture out of his comfort zone and grow as an artist. And he couldn’t have done a better job. While fans of DeGraw might be caught off-guard by the first song, further listening will reveal the more passionate side of the musician most have come to know and love. Somehow DeGraw manages to transition from the funkier, sexier sound of songs like “Radiation” to the more honest, endearing sound of songs like “Where You Are” with ease.
Although taking a risk by experimenting with his musical style, DeGraw still produces his characteristic piano rock ballads that could make any girl swoon at the smooth, soulful sound. “Soldier” takes the sincere lyrics of doing anything for love and combines them with a booming harmonizing chorus in the background — enough to send any listener into an awe-induced trance.
Ending the 10-track album with “Spell It Out,” DeGraw ultimately proves his talent by performing solo on the piano. With no backing vocals or instruments to hide behind, DeGraw demonstrates his undeniable gift for producing powerful piano chords and even more powerful vocals. What could be sweeter?