Owl City All Things Bright and Beautiful(Universal Republic) Buy it from Insound
If this were a less professional review, I’d simply resort to making a list of things I would rather do than listen to All Things Bright and Beautiful again. This list would span several pages and feature wonderful activities like watching the three hour extended cut of Avatar, attending another Jason Mraz concert, having a sexual encounter with Ke$ha, and hanging out with the kind of people who enjoy Adam Young’s Owl City. Awful doesn’t even begin to describe it. It’s not like Chris Brown where it’s culturally reprehensible that people enjoy it so much, it’s just genuinely terrible. There’s nothing offensive about it apart from how bland it is.
Its Casio keyboard music all sounds like a backing track to a Kidz Bop CD. It all sounds exactly the same. Sure, some songs add some extra instrumentation, but it’s still superimposed over the same half-assed Postal Service rip-offs. Alligator Sky even adds a rapper, making it feel like even more of a way to cash in on the idiot demographic. The drum machines and keyboards are horribly vanilla, adding no value whatsoever. It’s lazy, coming off like a kid who just found Garageband on his Mac. It’s horribly boring and uninspired. At least the stuff on his last album was catchy. This time he just wrote the same song twelve times.
The songwriting is a joke. I’m not kidding. It might actually be an incredibly straight-faced joke. I can only hope that Young announces that he was kidding the whole time; no one would ever sing the things he wrote so earnestly. I don’t know how he does it. Most people are familiar with the lyrical farce that was Fireflies, and the same can be expected for all the songs on Bright and Beautiful. I once saw a Facebook argument about Owl City where a girl stood up for his lyrics, calling them deep and thoughtful. Her reasoning for this was silly: he wrote them while suffering from insomnia, therefore they are meaningful. Despite the weakness and nonsensical nature of her argument, what she’s pointing out might hold some other answers. Lyrics like “its seventh heaven 'cause there are angels all around” could only be sung seriously by someone that hasn’t slept in a week. He comes off like an optimistic fourteen year old, playing up his doe-eyed innocent view of the world. Songs about young love, angels, astronauts seeing beautiful things and his dreams take up the entire miserable record. He’s insightful if all you’ve been exposed to previously is Radio Disney and Justin Bieber (No disrespect for the Biebs though, he’s far better than Owl City). He’s trying so damn hard to poetically describe the beauty he sees in the world, but his self-serious teenage poetry is more laughable than thought provoking.
Honey and the Bee is the album's comedic high point. It’s a duet between Young and what sounds like the heavily treated voice of a creepy four foot tall Cosplay girl. I’d be shocked if she’s not wearing a Sailor Moon costume and terrifying eye makeup. The songwriting is alternately painful and hilarious. Lines like “the crow and the beanfield are my best friends but boy I need a hug”, “I would make like a tree and leave” and “I’m a chickadee in love with the sky” inspire a mixture of emotions. I want to laugh, then I want to strangle myself with my belt. The record is chock full of lines like those. This is the kind of writing that people call deep. Just let that sink in. Somewhere out there, someone finds this insightful and moving.
My experience with All Things Bright and Beautiful can, at least in part, be described by the words of the great Wayne Jarvis: “It was a little contrived.” Owl City is electro-pop’s unwanted bastard child, combining all the worst elements of the genre. The production is lazy and unbelievably dull. It’s a waste of digital instruments and a complete waste of time. He’s the worst songwriter I’ve ever encountered. This is one of the worst albums I’ve ever heard, and the 100MB of hard drive real estate it’s taking up will be back on the market the second I finish typing this review.23 May, 2011 - 08:07 — Andrew Baer