Track Review: John Adams: Million Lives

‘As beautifully heartfelt songwriting goes, it doesn’t really get much better than this.’

Intro to John Adams:
If you need any convincing that busking as a musician
can indeed lead to bigger things, singer-songwriter John Adams may well be the proof that you need. Releasing the appropriately titled debut ‘The Pavement is My
in 2013, and supporting the likes of Katherine Jenkins and Take That, it’s clear that leaving his job as a maths teacher was the best risk he could have
ever taken. Continually delivering signs of top class songwriting through his music, this latest track – taken from his new EP ‘No White Lies’ – shows there is no stopping his musicality.

Track Review:
Bringing a sense of lilting vulnerability right from the start, the waltz style nature of acoustic guitar chords provides the perfect backing to John’s touching, heartfelt vocals. It’s effortlessly simple, but heavily intimate. It does indeed have more than a sense of music based wearing his heart on his sleeve, but this isn’t a pity-filled lament. Instead it is a track that grows in strength and emotion in equal measure.

Having showcased his superb vocal quality in the opening lines, on moving through the verse, the soft, delicately portamento edged tone quickly draws us in further. Likewise, the sense growth begins early with the emergence of cello based countermelodies. Blending wonderfully with the existing accompaniment, the two main influences within the track – orchestral and acoustic – begin to have equal prominence. It’s a truly beautiful sound, but reaching the chorus the beauty gets even clearer.

Now comprised of developing orchestral ideas as well as gospel-esque backing vocals, the textures become a mix of warmth, drama and restraint. It’s a delicate balance, and one that indeed demonstrates that John’s compositional understanding is as accomplished as the sound itself. However, not to be outdone by the accompaniment, his vocal soars beautifully above and then retracts with an incredibly controlled vibrato-edged delivery of the title lyrics.

Hinting once more at the imminent growth we are about to be offered, the sound of the second verse features a multitude of variations based around the chorus. Initially apparent through the greater use of instruments and the wonderfully harmonised setting of lyrics such as ‘holding your hand’ the sense of literal and metaphorical togetherness moves fully to the fore. As songwriting goes, it really doesn’t get much better than this.

Sounding at times incredibly luxurious to this point, the extended bridge sees a shift to reveal stylish musicality of a different nature. Altering the sound slightly via the string elements working lower in the mix, a soaring, highly expressive electric guitar line breaks through. Working in a way that channels the vocal emotion, it perfectly replaces the continuous phrases of John’s lyricism until now, allowing the selective use of orchestra and vocal to be enhanced in a sublime way.

Given the sound just reached, it could easily seem that the track has achieved its pinnacle, but John proceeds to give us two incredibly touching, final versions of the chorus. Harking back to those beautifully humble beginnings, the first, with its guitar and piano centred accompaniment sees us return to John’s more intimate sound. However, providing the most contrast possible, the second delivers us an impassioned, gospel-esque, falsetto filled finale that ensures we want to listen to a Million Lives, a million times.

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