OK, so maybe that’s not entirely true, but it’s the first thing that comes to mind on Elon-Elon’s “Ever Since … .” A collection of 13 songs that are more polished than three Lady Gagas and seven Pitbulls, the album is without doubt the most professional-sounding thing that has come from the Frederickarea in a long time (which is a big reason why it’s still important to include in this space, despite it now being a year old). There’s something to be said for focused, sparkly and sleek pop music, and the man born Elon Eisenberg just about covers all the bases with this statement of a record.
The most striking reminder that “Ever Since …” produces is the old adage that contemporary popular music is all rhythm and blues-based, anyway. “Call Me Maybe?” Where would it be without the funky pitter-patter groove that the chorus offers? “Somebody That I Used to Know?” How much popularity could it have possibly gained if its rhythm wasn’t so dark and infectious? Even Taylor Swift’s new and completely un-country “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” explores a far more dance-y side than most other traditional pop artists today.
Thus the comparison to Bruno Mars isn’t just accurate — it’s revealing. Elon clearly knows his way around a good sugar rush, and he takes every opportunity here to showcase those impeccable pop chops. “360¼” is the purest form of bubblegum bliss as the swinging live drums and bouncy piano evoke not only Mars, but also Andrew McMahon of Jack’s Mannequin as the bright-sounding repetitive keyboard track forces its way into any listener’s head, refusing to leave for days. The greatness of the song doesn’t lie in just its catchiness, either. Its anthemic nature proves to be both understated and poignant, adding yet another layer to an already twisty take on popular music.
It only really gets better from there. The beginning 20 seconds of “I’m OK” literally sounds like an outtake from “Doo-Wops & Hooligans” before bursting into full throttle with a Prince-like structure that features an emotional guitar solo and a quick-moving rhythm aided by a speedy hi-hat track as its fuel. Even “Where Is My Love” calls on a Maroon 5-cum-1985-pop melody during its chorus while sounds of a moderately slapped bass guitar paint a picture that presumably features nothing but people dancing within the lines of its colors. “I’m Gonna Love Ya” falters only a little with its forced electronic drums, though it quickly regains its footing as the singer does his best Justin Timberlake impression of a Michael Jackson impression. Not convinced? Listen to his whisper-heavy attitude.
Elon even accomplishes something typically hard to pull off on these types of releases: the art of a ballad. “Shivers Up” should have been your third favorite slow jam of the summer with its processed sparkle fading into something Tony Rich forgot to write. Not only is it a smooth, contemporary R&B gem, but it also proves infectious as you can literally envision a choreographed dance routine to the hook’s words: “Shivers up/ Shivers down/ Up and down they’re goin’/ All over your body/ Shivers up/ Shivers down/ Everything is flowin’/ Inside of you, baby.” Tony Toni Tone, eat your heart out.
The same kind of sentimentality rings loud on the Justin Bieber-rated “Shayna” and the Backstreet Boys-big “Unconditional.” Both songs could easily be mistaken for something you’ve never heard before yet swear you did. They combine the type of big boy pop professionalism with the kind of Top 40 radio appeal that isn’t always easy to come by. They both make the case for the singer as an artist to be taken seriously, and they both make you wonder why this stuff hasn’t caught on and received a much bigger audience within the past 12 months.
Thus the following question is imperative to ask: Is this kind of pop perfection reserved for only a large-scale audience and not the brunch crowd at Cafe Nola? Unfortunately, the answer for Elon-Elon is more than likely yes. It’s a shame, too, because “Ever Since …” is a fine piece of polished and accessible candy-coated fun that crowds of all sizes should be able to appreciate properly. But alas, these are precisely the types of songs that were meant to be heard in the Verizon Center, not Olde Towne Tavern. Does that mean there’s nothing here to interest the common, popular-radio-loving listener? Of course not. But does it mean that Elon-Elon has a tough road ahead of him if he plans on enjoying a long career filled with making grade-A pop music?
Well, let’s put it this way: Did you know who Peter Gene Hernandez was before hearing “Just The Way You Are?”
*** 3 1/2 STARS OUT OF 4 ***