Review: Ben Rector Heaps Some Sugar on his Songs

Ben Rector/The Joy of Music/OK Kid Recordings
3.5 Out of Five Stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Ostensively a kid’s record— the muppet that shares the cover would seem to indicate that at least that’s the intent—The Joy of Music lives up to its title. It’s an unabashed musical celebration, one that expresses absolute optimism, no small feat in an era of dire despair. Ben Rector is on record as saying he was determined to take chances with this record, but it’s hard to ascertain any real risk in an exuberant endeavor like this, other than the possibility that some cynical types might label him a bit of a Pollyanna.

Still, given his legion of followers—he claims over a billion streams, after all—it’s clear he’s in fairly safe territory. So too, only a real curmudgeon would appear immune to the infectious enthusiasm borne out through such songs as “Living My Best Life,” “Joy,” “We Will Never Be This Young Again,”  and “Supernatural”.  Likewise, when Rector squeezes out the sentiment on “Dream On,” and “Steady Love,” it’s hard not to be caught up in all the emotion that comes shining through.

It ought to be noted that Rector’s always maintained a pervasive presence, as anyone who’s had the opportunity to see him in concert will easily attest. Whether he’s aspiring to be the next Mr. Rogers or follow in the footsteps of the Dali Lama remains to be seen. He’s certainly maintaining a mantra that suggests he’s on a spiritual quest of some sort. The biblical references etched in the song “Heroes” lend some credence to that theory. So too, “Thank You” is nothing less than an unabashed prayer of pure gratitude. You have been good to me, he states over and over while a choir echoes his appreciation. 

Likewise, while the song “Cliches” boasts much of what its title suggests, the sweeter sentiments are difficult to deny. The shiny red vinyl adds an attractive lure as well. 

On the other hand, his effusive expression often threatens to spill over into schlockier realms as a result. “Daughter” is the kind of song that will likely elicit some embarrassment from the object of his affection as soon as she turns into a teenager. One can easily imagine her saying ewwwww, dad! if her friends ever stumble onto the song.

Nevertheless, with a roll call of special guests lighting up the marquee—Dave Koz, Snoop Dogg, Kenny G., and Taylor Goldsmith of the band Dawes, it’s clear he’s aiming his appeal at a mass appeal audience. Given its giddy designs, there’s not a single selection here that aims to dispel that notion. He even goes so far as to thank his collaborators at the end of the record, another syrupy additive that could prove to be a diabetic’s downfall.

Ultimately then, The Joy of Music could be considered an embracing invitation to simply share some gratitude—for life, love, or whatever else the listener might be prone to muster. It’s clear Rector has no complaints, but then again, few popular entertainers ever do. However let Rector rejoice; maybe, just maybe, some of that happiness will rub off on a world that sorely needs it now.

Leave a Reply

Spotify Announces £235 million Partnership with Football Club FC Barcelona, Music Venue Trust Loudly Disapproves