The Kingsmen want you to know that they’re good guys. In fact, they desperately need you to know that. Their performances and song choices, from 50’s doo-wop to modern pop, all scream one line, in a sandpapered-smooth voice: “LOVE ME.” They want you to know they’re not like the other guys; sure, Notes and Keys were invited to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s house, but have you seen the new baby blue blazers?
And there’s not much to hate in this concise, twenty-six minute project. With five studio tracks and four recorded live, it’s not so long that you might overdose on saccharine sentiments and dulcet de leche tones. However, it’s also far too long; not since Ed Sheeran has a group said so little in so much time. Beige paint. A gray, overcast sky. A plain Ritz cracker. Wouldn’t It Be Nice.
The album opens with “Sh-Boom (Life Could Be A Dream),” a serenade from a lonely middle-schooler to his dance partner, a mop. Or maybe it’s a human woman. The same emotional depth is displayed in both cases. The Kingsmen croon “Life could be a dream/If I could take you up in paradise up above/If you would tell me I’m the only one that you love” with zero self-awareness. Just love me, and everything will be alright. Never mind your hopes, dreams, or individual agency. Hey, can I borrow your juul?
The Kingsmen surprise with the song made famous by everyone’s favorite gum commercial by making a version so bland that it sounds like it was swabbed with Purell, or maybe Everclear, before it left the tape deck. If you stay awake past the first “Wise men say…” on “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” that says much more about you than the Kingsmen, who came for the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and missed so badly it’s a wonder those baby blue blazers aren’t washing up on the shores of the Hudson.
With their incapacity for exciting arrangements or musical ideas, it would’ve been enough to choose interesting songs. Instead, the Kingsmen choose to tread over the well-worn “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and wind up at the door of “She Will Be Loved.” There’s enough for the kids, sorry, I mean “young ‘Smen”, like the cover of Childish Gambino’s “Sober” that manages to remove everything interesting and exciting about the provocative original in favor of, again, bland “doo-wahs.” It would be too generous to call the Nice Guy, just leave it all to me act a façade, which implies artifice or artistry of some kind. Neither are present.
Sure, the Kingsmen serve up songs that can be played both in public, for indifferent crowds who couldn’t think of a better way to pass their time. You can also play the album in private, perhaps after sex, if you spent the whole time staring at yourself in the mirror. However, the album title implies a choice, and I choose neither. Though no musical instruments are present, the too-sweet soul smiles of the Kingsmen are instrumental to their, well, tailored, image. Just watch out; for the sake of your heart, and for your craft beer.