Just Kids

Mat Kearney

Republic, 2015


REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


For reasons I can't recall, 10 copies of Mat Kearney's major label debut Nothing Left To Lose landed in my mailbox in 2006. I remember putting it in and thinking to myself that it sounded much more tolerable than anything else on the radio back then, and then gave out the remaining copies to friends to see what they thought. It came back with mixed reviews. Of course, at the time Kearney was becoming a star with the Christian rock community embracing him. It seemed that you couldn't turn on the tube without hearing a song off my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Nothing Left To Lose on your favorite show.

Fast forward to 2015. Kearney's now on album number five, titled Just Kids. The album starts out with “Heartbreak Dreamer,” where Kearney's introspective nature is as strong as ever as he balances rapping with singing and hip-hop with electro-pop – an avenue I was unaware he was immersed in. “Moving On” follows and it's very apparent that this is a much more synth-fueled listen than I anticipated. Next up, the self-titled “Just Kids” has the calmer moments that his debut was built on.

Near the middle, the extremely polished, radio-friendly pop tune “Heartbeat” sounds like hit single material in 2015, and the dance floor friendly “Billion” sounds similarly upbeat and aimed at the FM dial. “One Black Sheep” brings us more towards Kearney's former acoustic singer-songwriter style, which for listeners like me, is how I prefer his songs to exist.

The later tracks offer the most diversity here, with the folky duet “The Conversation,” the hip-hop influenced “One Heart,” and the sparse closer “Shasta,” where Kearney shows a more developed vocal range. These are the strongest songs present, or at least the most unpredictable compared to the remainder, and even if it takes awhile to get there it's worth the investment.

Ultimately, Kearney's primary strength – his ability to both sing and rap fluidly – is still utilized effectively. As for the upbeat pop now so present in his work, well, much like in 2006, it's much better than the legions of similar artists. Still, it will probably come back from fans with mixed reviews.

Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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