Have you ever tried too hard to belong? Like, you’re not actually a leather queen, but you put on the vest and the aviator sunglasses and wander into a bar called The Eagle? Or you don’t really care about Star Trek, but that cute guy in your office loves it, so you try to impress him by learning a few phrases from the Klingon dictionary?
It never works does it? In the end, you just feel stupid, and everyone around you feels uncomfortable as you pretend to be something you’re not.
Someone should have mentioned this to Owl City (a.k.a. Adam Young) before he tried to become a party rocker.
You might remember Owl City’s #1 single “Fireflies,” which is quirky and charming and cerebral. Young once made music in his parents’ basement, and it’s obvious here: “Fireflies” sounds like the product of a sensitive wallflower, crooning odd lyrics over a dreamy beat that won’t wake up his family.
And that’s great. Young’s convincing as a sensitive singer-songwriter.
But you know what isn’t convincing? The wallflower trying to climb out of the basement and make people dance on the beach. For proof, just listen to “Good Time,” Owl City’s new duet with Carly Rae Jepsen.
I just can’t, you guys.
For one thing, no matter how desperate Adam Young is for a comeback hit, he should never pair himself with an artist like Carly Rae Jepsen. She’s the new bubblegum queen, and her ability to seem cute and sunny just makes it more obvious that Young is a laptop geek. Sure, slapping her on the record will grab some attention, but it also underscores that Owl City sounds out of place.
And the track itself? Is fine. Generic, but fine. But Young’s restrained, computer-distorted singing doesn’t fit. He sounds so sad, with his swallowed vowels and flat affect, and a summer anthem is not supposed to be depressing.
The lyrics are even more awkward. Young tries to suppress his poetic instincts and write silly rhymes, but he can’t quite do it. The result is a terrible hybrid—an half-hearted attempt at dumbing down. Consider the opening verse:
Woke up on the right side of the bed.
What’s up with this Prince song inside my head?
Hands up if you’re down to get down tonight.
‘Cuz it’s always a good time
I mean… I get what he’s going for. Specificity makes a song more interesting, etc. But these lyrics just don’t work, especially because Young has to rush through them to fit inside the song’s meter.
The worst part is that Young could make a great dance song. As I’ve said before, “Kangaroo Court” by Capital Cities is a clever little ditty that also rocks my booty. It’s not LMFAO. It’s Capital Cities’ version of pop music.
And maybe Adam Young was trying to be true to himself with “Good Time.” But it doesn’t sound like it. It sounds like he showed up at the party with the wrong kind of beer and convinced himself he wanted to drink it.
Previously: “Call Me Maybe” is all about the hot gay guy
Mark Blankenship tweets as @IAmBlankenship. He was written about pop music for NPR and The New York Times. He likes to dance, but he’s not really into the beach.