The epic flow of AJ Smith’s new single “Better” would have been enough for it to win a lot of accolades with pop critics this season, but in addition to the charismatic and brooding vocal he’s making this track’s focal point, the instrumental framework of this piece is some of his best content thus far. Smith has a likeability that is equal parts vanity and emotionality in “Better,” and whether you typically go for a straightforward pop sound like this or not, it’s a performance that I think fans of meticulous melodies are going to look upon with great favor.
First off, the guitar parts in this track are far louder than they need to be, but where some critics would see these excesses as not only unnecessary but an obstacle to the greater harmony Smith is trying to develop, I view them as a step towards the provocative that I wish a lot of other pop singers would experiment with right now. There’s nothing reserved about the way these melodies are coming together, and without the concise tone of the string play, “Better” would not live up to its title quite in the way it does here.
This chorus veers into a harder pop element than what we start the track off with, but the transition isn’t as difficult for us to process because of the seamlessness with which Smith is scaling the harmony at this juncture of the song. “Better” is a composition that requires a little more attentiveness on his part than he’s had to submit in his career to date, but rather than sounding even remotely intimidated by the task set before him, this singer/songwriter sounds like he’s raring at the opportunity to do something that equates more with his ambitions than it does his present-known skillset.
There’s a faint glam element in this single that is just itching to come into focus, and yet it never quite does because of the streamlined manner in which the hook is brought into the spotlight. I wouldn’t mind Smith exploring more of his influences the next time he steps into the recording studio, and right now I don’t think he’s got anything to lose by following the wily side of his personality wherever it might take him. This is how some of the best pop music has been made traditionally, which is to say that leaving traditions on the sidelines might be his best option moving ahead.
It’s obvious that AJ Smith is still in the process of figuring out who he is and what kind of a sound he wants to be known for, but among those who are making a big splash with critics and underground audiences this month I think he’s one of the more naturally talented and worthy of the focus he’s been garnering thanks to songs like “Better.” A progressive compositional blueprint is nothing without the right singer to give it an identity, but thankfully that’s exactly what we’re getting in this terrific new single and its video.
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