US based singer-songwriter Callaghan’s new EP The Other Side offers four tracks of well-polished pop-music which actually smell of Radio 2 Airtime.
The titular opening track is a charged opener to the EP. The soft piano opening and Callaghan’s delicate vocals do not offer anything new to the genre but certainly the effect of this genre done well. With its immaculate production and eye-wateringly catchy chorus, the track sets itself up as a perfectly crafted example of Radio-friendly pop music. However, the supposedly political message that the lyrics unsubtly point toward really grates. Lines offering such banal factuality as ‘everyone is wrong or, everyone is right’ not only fail to offer anything tangible to the listener, but due to the supposed pretence of a politically charged message become stomach churning through their vacuous sentimentality. I found myself annoyed that what should have been a well-crafted, straightforward pop song managed to get so under my skin due to its bizarre, and unnecessary, ‘political’ facade.
‘Solid Ground’ is a welcome change of pace. It still offers that Radio pop sound but here there is an acoustic bent to it which is genuinely pleasant to the ear. A definitely Celtic inspired song it mostly, yet not completely, avoids the ear-scrappingly blunt, tidal force of cultural appropriation that exists on Ed Sheeran’s ‘Galway Girl’ and, quite frankly, is much more sincere a listen. I found that in the more sparse arrangement Callaghan’s voice really shines, sounding earnest and excelling at carrying the song on its own back.
The two final tracks offer more of the same. The breathy piano ballad ‘Surrender’ demonstrates the wide range of Callaghan’s vocals in a style more in keeping with Whitney Houston. ‘I Don’t Know How To Lose You’ however, slows the tempo and is a more restricted, yet still piano led ballad, which focuses more on earnest simplicity, more in keeping with ‘Solid Ground’.
In general, this EP offers four tracks of stunningly polished pop-sounding singer-songwriter ballads which cry out for air-time; it is a success waiting to happen. The standout track has to be ‘Solid Ground’ due to its genuine earnestness and listenablility. The only place where the EP falls down is ‘The Other Side’. Perhaps I am being too cynical in regards to ‘The Other Side’, however, for a track to be marketed as a ‘political’ track means that it has to stand by that assertion; otherwise, it undermines the purpose of saying that anything is about anything at all, and in light of this ‘The Other Side’ fails on its own terms in the broadest sense. Although, I have no doubt that it will be quickly snatched up by radio stations everywhere and will soon have people singing along to it without any notion that it once had the gall to consider itself a political statement.
Callaghan’s UK headline tour kicks off on June 2nd and her EP The Other Side is available now.