Howard Dorough, a.k.a. Howie D. is most well known for his work throughout the years with the bubblegum pop group Backstreet Boys. While Dorough has earned his greatest fame as a member of the group, that is not his only claim to fame. He alsso has some production credit under his belt along with a solo album released in 2011 titled Back To Me. On Friday, Dorough released his second solo recording, which was also his first-ever family music album in the form of Which One Am I. The album, which comes a little more than a month ahead of his 46th birthday, is an intriguing effort from Dorough, considering his resume. That is proven in part through the record’s arrangements, which will be discussed shortly. The record’s lyrical themes add to the record’s interest, and will be addressed a little later. Its sequencing rounds out its most important elements, and will also be addressed later. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Which One Am I. All things considered, this record has the possibility to help Dorough truly start developing his own identity as an artist and a performer.
Howard Dorough’s sophomore solo record – and first ever family music album – Which One Am I is a promising new offering for the performer who has made his name largely through his work with the Backstreet Boys. It is a promising offering in part because of the album’s arrangements. The arrangements featured throughout the course of the 12-song, 38-minute album are distinctly different from anything crafted for any of the Backstreet Boys’ albums. Whereas the arrangements featured on the Backstreet Boys’ albums are synthetic, autotuned cookie cutter creations crafted by the execs at the group’s label, the arrangements featured in this record feel and sound far more genuine and original. The arrangement in the album’s opener features an arrangement that harkens back to the poppy, R&B-infused songs of the late 1950s and early 60s while ‘Worry,’ which comes later in the album’s run, boasts an arrangement that holds its own against any of today’s reggae offerings. ‘School Bell Tango’ presents a fun, light arrangement that puts on display Dorough’s Puerto Rican roots – he makes a point in the album to note that his mother is Puerto Rican and his father Irish. The arrangement, complete with either cello or viola, presents the familiar tango sound that was (and is) so common from Puerto Rico. ‘Small Time Blues’ presents, in fact, a light 12-bar blues arrangement that is just as catchy as so many old school country blues songs. Between this, everything else mentioned, the power in the subtlety of Dorough’s cover of Bill Withers’ hit song ‘Lean on Me’ and the rest of the record’s arrangements, Dorough puts on full display his talents as a performer. The result of the record’s collective arrangements is a full set of arrangements that creates a strong foundation for Dorough’s new record. Building on that foundation is the lyrical content featured with the arrangements.
As already noted, Which One Am I is Dorough’s first-ever family record. For someone who has spent the better part of his career lip synching hollow, forgettable lyrics that are anything but memorable, the lyrics presented here (which clearly are sung by Dorough this time out) are lyrics that will resonate with children and adults alike. Case in point is the piano-driven song that is ‘Shy.’ This song’s doo-wop infused arrangement works expertly with its lyrics about a young student who is battling with shyness. He sings about the young boy being asked to read a passage from a book and trying to pretend he can’t talk in order to get out of it, but that effort failing. Who hasn’t done that at one point or another in their childhood? The song also features a story about that same young man trying to get over his shyness as he tries to ask a girl to a dance at another point in his young life. He ends the song by asking painfully why he is so shy. This is something to which listeners of all ages can relate just as much as the song’s other situations.
‘School Bell Tango’ is another prime example of the importance of the album’s lyrical themes. Here again is a lyrical theme to which listeners of all ages can relate. Dorough sings here from the vantage point of a young school student not wanting to get up and go to school in the morning, but eventually having so much fun at school that he’s surprised when the last bell of the day rings. Yet again, who out there has not been in the situation in which that young student has been? Even grown-ups don’t like getting up in the morning, hearing that first alarm of the day from the alarm clock. The difference is that adults can’t wait to get home at the end of the day. Kids on the other hand, get ot have fun at school along with their work. Again, this is a song that not just musically, but lyrically, will reach a wide range of listeners.
‘The Me I’m Meant To Be’ is yet another of those songs that will reach a wide range of listeners through its lyrical content. Dorough presents in this song, a message of taking pride in one’s own self and being willing to take risks in life, singing, “I could play it safe/But I been down that road before/And even though I am afraid/I could give it a try/Change up my game/Open that door/I gotta make my own mind up/’Cause all of my time’s up/I gotta trust I’ll find my way.” Children and adults alike have trouble willing themselves to take risks in life and do new things. The situations may differ, but they still happen for everyone. What is important in those situations is taking those chances, because without taking chances, no change will ever happen. This is a positive message for everyone. Add in the fact that this is the only song in the album that boasts any hint of any Backstreet Boys-type sound, but even with that in mind, it is still an interesting song that captures quite surprisingly well, the emotions of people facing the challenge of new changes. When these three songs are considered along with the rest of the album’s works, the importance of the album’s lyrical content proves that much more critical to its overall presentation, and in a good way. The album’s lyrical content coupled with its musical arrangements, it becomes that much more of a surprisingly interesting offering from Dorough. The noted elements are not its only important elements. Its sequencing rounds out its most important elements.
From beginning to end, the sound and feel of Which One Am I changes, giving listeners something new from one song to the next. That is important to note because it ensures that much more, listeners’ engagement and entertainment. The record opens with its light, bouncy title track before moving into a more funk-infused work in ‘Back in the Day.’ The change continues as the album makes its way through the kindie-rock styling of ‘Monster in My Head,’ the previously noted doo-wop style of ‘Shy — by the way, Dorough’s control as he hits the high notes in this song is honestly impressive. There is no autotune here. It is really him, which makes that moment even more impressive — the reggae styling of ‘Worry’ and the R&B-infused ‘Pollyanna’s Shadow.’ It continues on throughout the second half of the album, with the again aforementioned Latin-infused styling of ‘School Bell Tango’ and ‘No Hablo Espanol,’ the powerful simplicity of ‘Lean on Me,’ which closes out the album and even the bluesy rhythms of ‘Small Time Blues.’ Short and simple, listeners get something different from beginning to end of this album in terms of the arrangements, and their energies. Those variances are just slight enough to keep listeners engaged and entertained throughout the course of the record’s 38-minute run time. Obviously a certain amount of time and effort was put into this part of the record, just as much as the arrangements and lyrical themes featured throughout the record. When the noted elements are considered together, the whole of said elements makes Which One Am I a work that is certain to establish Dorough’s identity as a real performer and composer. It shows he can make his own identity without being a member of that pop other act.
Howard Dorough’s debut family album (and second solo album) is a surprisingly interesting offering from the man who has otherwise made his claim to fame as a member of the Backstreet Boys. It is a record that shows he may actually have a viable career away from that group. That is evidenced in part through the arrangements featured in the album. The arrangements are far more diverse than anything featured on any Backstreet Boys record. The record’s lyrical themes are items to which listeners of all ages can relate. That adds to its interest. The sequencing of the noted arrangements ensures even more, listeners’ engagement. Each item is important in its own way to the whole of Which One Am I. All things considered, they show this record could very well be the start of a possibly successful solo career for Dorough that will definitely create not just more of a new identity for him, but a better identity. More information on Which One Am I is available online now along with all of Howie D’s news at:
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