Album Review: Greg Holden, ‘Chase the Sun’
Greg Holden is several releases into his recording career, but at this point, his biggest claim to fame is probably co-writing "Home," the song Phillip Phillips performed after winning American Idol — a credit that's surely earned Holden a fair bit of mailbox money, but also carries with it a certain connotation that makes it easy to be cynical about his full-length major-label debut, Chase the Sun.
And to be honest, a fair bit of Chase the Sun lives down (or up, depending on one's point of view) to the sort of stuff you'd expect to hear from a guy who wrote an Idol-sanctioned hit single — this is overwhelmingly earnest stuff, delivered with passion (but not too much!) and shellacked with just enough radio-friendly gloss to sweeten the modicum of rock grit and/or Mumford-style acoustics.
Holden also has an alarming fondness for platitude-level lyrics, which manifests itself repeatedly in the admittedly singalong choruses of rousing mid-tempo numbers like "Save Yourself," "Free Again," and "Give It Away." The overall effect is often pleasant without exactly being memorable — comfort listening that amiably ambles along without achieving, or even really attempting, enough momentum to make a solid impact.
It would be a mistake to write Holden off, however, because while swaths of Chase the Sun are given over to swaying MOR anthems, there's still room for him to show a few flashes of excellence that suggest he might be just two or three albums away from really hitting a remarkable stride. Laden though it may be with clichés and mannered pop production, there are some truly affecting moments nestled in the album.
Chief among them is undoubtedly "Boys in the Street," a story told from the vantage point of a gay man who's spent a lifetime living with his father's refusal to accept him for who he is. One of a couple tracks that eschew unnecessary layers and shine a pleasantly stark spotlight on Holden's singing and songwriting, it's immensely touching, and it hints at a depth that's too rarely explored here.
It's also worth noting that to his credit, Holden avoids standard love songs on Chase the Sun, preferring to focus on story songs and broader observations about life like the ones expressed in leadoff single "Hold on Tight." His aims are nothing but admirable, and if they exceed his grasp too often to make Chase the Sun worth recommending unequivocally, they speak to a future that could be blindingly bright.