“Olivia” by Rob Alexander

Music

This is a lively single. “Olivia” hasn’t allowed a pandemic and global dissention get it down. People are still in love, building lives together, tackling whatever twists that come their way. The drama of human hearts never ends. We’re always looking within, as well, turning our gaze to the road behind us so we remember and maybe honor how far we’ve come. Rob Alexander recognizes this and the new single from his album is vitally connected to life’s shared experiences.

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It has some distinguishing characteristics, however. Alexander’s “Olivia” plays like a young man’s song musically, pushing with steady pressure from beginning to end, but the lyrical point of view is decidedly adult. It stands apart for several reasons and one is its clear-eyed recognition of the trials love will face along the way. Alexander puts an indefatigable face on the song, however, and its final effect on listeners is redemptive.

The fleet fingered and light touch of keys contrasts well with the enormous rhythm section presence during the song. The drums and bass are large, without a doubt, but rest assured Alexander never saddles listeners with a lifeless overpowering thud. Gabe Lopez’s production orchestrates the song’s various strands into a coherent whole where no one facet overshadows another.

Much of the potential for “Olivia” is thanks to its direct and intelligently worded lyrics. He isn’t saying anything longtime music listeners haven’t heard before, but Alexander restates them in a personal way. It’s not a song where you’ll feel like you’re drowning in cliché despite its familiar structural and sonic surroundings. The words are familiar as well, it’s true, but he gives them an unique twist.

This cut, like the rest on Dream Out Loud, is mindful of the listener’s attention. Alexander understands the limits of modern pop songs in this vein and wisely respects its borders. This puts added demands on any songwriter as they must craft a track that incorporates expected elements in a measured yet effective way. A performer must respond to those demands as well. “Olivia” fits all those requirements and never overstretches.

His vocal tops it all. There’s some double-tracking present in the recording and perhaps a bit of “ambiance” added to his voice, but it’s otherwise unadorned. He pours a great deal of brio into the singing, communicating assertiveness at every step. He also modulates his vocal at key points and this elastic quality to his singing elevates the song even higher. There’s no doubt that Alexander has ample pipes, but he never tries to steamroll listeners and his stylishness is apparent from the beginning.

“Olivia” is one of the album’s standout tracks and it’s obvious why he chose it as a single. It should have wide appeal. Rob Alexander checks off all the boxes for giving listeners a friendly and vulnerable musical ride they can relate to. The single comes from his third solo album and there’s no indication or sign of him slowing down. His voice burns with the passion of a much younger man.

Jodi Marxbury

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