Singer/songwriter Von Smith rose to public consciousness through appearances on YouTube and "The View," along with being a competitor on "American Idol" and "Opening Act" in which he was awarded the honor of opening for Lady Gaga during her Australian tour. A regular performer in the popular Los Angeles "For the Record" concert series, Smith has been dazzling audiences across the country with his stunning five octave range, soul-stirring performances, and all-around boy-next door goodness. While he’s had various songs recorded from his work on the "For the Record: Tarantino" soundtrack (which includes his jaw-dropping rendition of the classic Joe "Red" Hayes and Jack Rhodes song "Satisfied Mind"), as well as the single generated from his win on "Opening Act" called "Hopeless." So it’s thrilling to finally get a collection of his own material: "On to Something"
And what a collection it is!
It’s hard to put in words how to describe Smith’s debut EP. It’s a combination of playful lyrics, complex melodies, and theatrical arrangements that are masterful. His music is an amalgamation of styles that can bring to mind a number of popular acts such as Muse, Queen, Mika, and even My Chemical Romance. That’s not to say he’s derivative of any of those bands. In fact, he takes the core of what makes them singular and twists them into a maniacally gleeful cornucopia of compositions that defies any true genre. It’s a delicate balance that makes the disc addictively fun.
In the opener "Carnival of Life" the proclaiming trumpets and circus-style beats are punctuated with a percussive vocal delivery that begs to be sung along to. "Oh don’t be so serious/lighten up, have a laugh, have a heart/When they’re digging your own grave/You don’t want them to say/you were always a lump from the start." Smith certainly frolics with a mischievousness that is also quite affirming. The song meanders through different styles making it almost of an overture for things to come. And the best is yet to.
The second track off the six-track EP is an infectious rouser called "Pilot Light" that delineates the struggle to move on from a bad relationship. "’Cause you’re only in it for the game/not in it for the same things/I want to be in my life/you wanna dance inside the glow till/it don’t glow no mo but/you’re about to blowout my/pilot light." The track is phenomenally well-structured with a roof-raising chorus punctuated by a mid-song speed-rap that puts Amy Renee Heidemann of Karmin to shame.
The EP’s third track "Almost Free" starts out as an acoustic heart-warmer that builds until the full range of Smith’s vocals are on display. Don’t let the handsome white boy exterior fool you. Dude’s got soul. And by the end of this track, your hands will be raised to the heavens proclaiming "glory be to the universe!"
The record’s most "pop-friendly" track still retains that carnival fun but weaves in a dash of Danny Elfman sparkle that make you feel like you’re gleefully trapped inside a Tim Burton film. Which is good when the track is called "Monster" and has lyrics like "If love is a monster/ then I have been eaten alive/and I’m going under/and there is no hope to survive/Not this time."
The barn-burner "On to Something" is title track of the album. Smith says this felt right as the name for his collection of songs because the style of the entire affair was something new for him and he feels like he will still evolve from it. This is the most "rock-based" of the tracks and while there’s still a Merry-Go-Round underbelly, it has more of a symphonic Muse feel to it that is both frisky and blazing.
The closing track "The Prize" is a soft and elegant hymn that harkens back to George Michael’s "Careless Whisper" days. Supported by chorus of his own voice, the tune is ethereal and uplifting, ending on a perfect message. "You’ve got to love the journey, for the journey is the prize."
Knowing that every song was written, composed, and performed by Smith himself, with all instruments (except piano) performed by producer Matt Appleton of "Reel Big Fish," well, that just adds to the wow factor. So far this is the most original and artistically thrilling album of the year. It heralds the evolution and mainstream arrival of an indomitable talent.
Von Smith’s "On to Something" can be purchased on iTunes or on CD Baby at www.cdbaby.com/cd/vonsmith.