If the name Tyler Ward sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve heard some of his covers. He’s a veritable Youtube sensation, having done spectacular covers of everything from Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” to Katy Perry’s “E.T.” to Jessie J’s “Price Tag.” To give you an idea of just how viral many of his covers are, he covered the classic charity anthem “We Are The World” during the 2010 winter Olympics and the video reached 1.5 million reviews the first week. There are artists who’ve released three albums already who don’t even get close to that many reviews the first week. And many of his other videos have gotten an equally mind-blowing response. In fact, he has over one million Youtube subscribers.
While so many artists who are pumping out one cover after another these days tend to do paint-by-number covers, Tyler always puts his own spin on things. One thing he’s done again and again with marvelous results is to strip down a song and do it acoustically or at least with live instruments instead of programmed beats and fancy studio tinkering. One of my favorite covers he’s done is his rendition of Far East Movement’s “Like a G6,” which he did with live drums, guitars and bass and very minimal synth. The result? He took what was a pure electro-pop masterpiece and turned it into a peppy rock number. That takes a lot of creativity. Which brings us to his new album of original songs, Honestly, which Sony Music Germany physically and digitally released on the 18th of October in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. But it is also available for download via iTunes and Amazon here in the States.
Let’s face it, most Youtube sensations who are known for doing cover songs can’t write an original song to save their lives. I don’t want to put down any aspiring artists, so I’m not going to name names, but I’m sure you’ve all seen some cringe-worthy originals by artists known for covers at some point. Fortunately, Tyler Ward is just as good at writing original songs of his own as he is at doing covers, which is pretty darn good.
Honestly opens with a vibrant mid-tempo track called “S.O.S.” “S.O.S. / Can someone help me / I need a miracle,” Tyler sings during the ultra-catchy chorus of the pop rock confection. I found it interesting that he put this track first because it’s almost as though he’s asking people to help him with his career. His career doing *original* music, that is. “I got something to say / But the words never come out right,” he sings during the first verse. Perhaps he is singing about his career as a singer/songwriter? Or maybe he’s singing about writer’s block? I think it’s probably a little bit of both. That said, it’s somewhat ironic because he clearly didn’t have writer’s block when he wrote this inspired album.
One of the things that impresses me most about Tyler’s original music is how he takes elements of soul and R&B and fuses them with pop and rock so masterfully. The tempo of “Some Kind of Beautiful” featuring. Lindsey Stirling, for example, is almost R&B and his vocals are in that vein during much of the song, too. Interestingly, the song meshes electro-tinkering with the live drums and also has some lively violin. Suffice to say, it’s quite the colorful tune.
To further enrich things, he brings in frequent collaborator Alex G. for the mid-tempo ballad “Falling.” “I’m falling / I’m falling / In love with you,” she sings, her voice as endearing as ever. Of course, at the center of these songs is always Tyler’s voice, which is quite smooth but with a hint of rasp that gives it character. More importantly, he sings his songs with real passion, wholly invested in each of them. Other highlights include the punchy “If I’m Being Honest,” the quirky but charming “Hoopty Hoop,” and the acoustic ballad “Beginning of a Bad Idea.” And for those of you who insist that he keep doing covers, the deluxe edition of the album features several of them, including fantastic renditions of Adele’s “Set Fire To The Rain,” Rihanna’s “We Found Love” and Katy Perry’s “Roar,” the latter of which he simply performs with acoustic guitar and some additional vocals courtesy of Two Worlds.