Switchfoot's album The Beautiful Letdown is a stellar record. Additionally, it’s my all-time favorite record from them and it's been a big part of soundtracking my life. So, when I heard the news of a favorite band re-recording a favorite album, I got nervous. Thankfully, my anxiety over potentially tinkering too much with long-loved tunes was much ado about nothing. Mini-crisis averted. Then shortly after its release, my curiosity was certainly piqued to hear of a Deluxe version was on the way with some well-known names in the music industry each taking a swing at a TBL track. If the band themselves had played it faithful to the originals, maybe artists like Ryan Tedder (OneRepublic), Relient K, Colony House, Owl City, and Tyler Joseph (Twenty One Pilots) would swing big and make these songs their own. Further still, perhaps an artist previously unknown to me would produce a pleasant surprise.
Alas, I’m bummed to report that nearly every hope and expectation was met with bland karaoke versions of these classic songs that leave me as cold as the electronic elements littering the tracklist. It also causes me to wonder why artists with such renowned creativity would take the safe rendition route. Too much of the album skews electro/pop, and it smacks too deeply of this moment in music, no doubt meaning it will lack any timeless factor or produce any staying power. Was there too much of a time crunch on delivering the songs for release? Are the artists afraid of potential fan backlash if they shook it up too drastically? We’ll likely never know, and while some fans of the covering artists and Switchfoot may enjoy what's here, I resoundingly do not.
For instance, Jon Bellion sings the heck out of "Meant to Live," and the string swells are gorgeous, but the auto-tuning and over-singing have me pining for the rocking original. The drums on "This is Your Life," covered by Noah Gunderson, are mixed so high I couldn't hear or enjoy anything else in the song. Skip. Then, "More Than Fine" follows with clanking percussive sounds that detract from an otherwise decent version from Monica Martin.
But most disappointing to me was that Ryan Tedder phoned in participation on my favorite Switchfoot song of all time, "Dare You to Move." He shares the song with Switchfoot's Jon Foreman, singing verse one and the chorus, and Tedder taking verse two and a chorus with nary a wrinkle from the original version sonically. Hopefully there is more to the story going on there, because I can't for the life of me understand it. Secondarily, Tyler Jospeh's straight take on "Twenty-Four" is such a wasted opportunity. He could have brought so much innovation, creativity, or nuance to the song (like he does in his two-piece band, Twenty One Pilots), but brings nothing but his voice to the table. Ultimately it's a pleasant, but boring cover.
I could go on, but rather than wax poetic about my "not-so-beautiful-letdown," I'd be remiss if I didn't highlight the few songs that work. Those would be Relient K's ramped-up version of "Ammunition," the chilled-out "Redemption" by Colony House, Owl City's take on "Gone," and Ingrid Andress' haunting performance of "On Fire." She is my biggest surprise among the previously unknown artists, and "On Fire" has the biggest chance of sticking on a playlist for me going forward. Owl City does his thing, and the playful tone of the original is given his typical smile-inducing pop whimsy. "Redemption" has always been a deep cut favorite, and I was glad to hear Colony House slow the tempo and give it a smoky room feel. Lastly, I truly dig the punk-like vibes Relient K brought to "Ammunition." I only wish they'd leaned a little harder into the chugging rhythm to harken back to their own musical roots. But all in all, coupled with the rough vocals that Matt Theissen employed, I thought they more than did the song justice.
Unfortunately, this Deluxe Edition of The Beautiful Letdown (Our Version) (which does at least tack-on a couple bonus tracks to Switchfoot's portion of the album that were only previously available if you'd purchased the album through Switchfoot.com) is mostly a miss. I wish I could say anything else about it as a big fan of many of the artist's work, but repeated listens are not helping lessen the initial disappointment. All in all, I'll be sticking with the non-Deluxe Edition and won't be giving any additional listening time to this lackluster covers project past this review.- Review date: 9/14/23, written by Josh Balogh of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: lowercase people records
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