I’m so glad someone told Nate Ruess his voice didn’t need to be auto-tuned. “Grand Romantic,” Nate Ruess’ debut solo album, follows much of the same formula as “Some Nights,” his band fun.’s 2012 release. This time, Ruess was wise enough to leave the auto-tuning off the album. His voice has amazing range and commands such attention when he sings, it doesn’t need a gimmick to leave you wanting more.
It was clear, from his days in The Format, Ruess would settle for nothing less than bold theatrics in his music. “Grand Romantic” pulls listeners in with an intro reminiscent of the opening of The Rolling Stone’s “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” A choir introduces us to the album and resurfaces to leave us with a reprise at the end of the title track, just before the album’s final two tracks.
Ruess has been using opening tracks as intros since The Format’s album “Dog Problems,” and they usually have been effective. The intro to “Grand Romantic,” however, feels forced and used just for the sake of having an intro. I do appreciate how it is revisited in the title track, but one of the best things about Ruess’ intros is how his voice comes in to guide the listener into the album.
When I listen to a side project of an already established musician, I hope for something more than what I already can find. Ruess, unfortunately, does not give us anything we haven’t heard. It’s easy to hear how the sound from “Dog Problems” carried over to Ruess’ first album, “Aim and Ignite” with fun. Now his sound from “Some Nights” has followed him into his solo carreer. It’s not that I expected a country, R&B or techno album. I simply expected something new to be brought to the table.
This was an alright album from a great vocalist, and it’s hard for me to accept he didn’t try anything new with this outlet. Ruess’ voice still managed to carry me through the album, and I found myself appreciating bits and pieces of it as it played on.“Take It Back” is probably the most honest song on the album. As much as I’m not a huge fan of this album in its entirety, I will say this song stands above the rest.
The drumming cadence of “AhHa”” sounds like the formula used for the title track on “Some Nights,” and then it’s repeated throughout the album. Beck makes an appearance on “What This World Is Coming To,” and while their voices mesh beautifully, the song is still lackluster.
Ruess is an amazingly unique vocalist, and his lyrics are still as heavy with honest emotion as ever. There’s just something about this album that leaves me wanting more. Perhaps that’s just me pining for more Format albums.
• Jason Pfrommer is a videographer for Shaw Media who graduated from Northern Illinois University with a degree in journalism. Pfrommer is a long-time vinyl collector and lover of music. He often can be heard quoting TV and movies and making pop culture references.