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Emerson Drive

What If? – 2004 (DreamWorks Nashville)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Emerson Drive

"What If?" by Emerson Drive is breezy and glossy pop-country, if you like that sort of thing. This second album (like its debut) was produced by Richard Marx who - and you can almost see this one coming - is a breezy and glossy pop singer/songwriter/producer. The result of this pairing is akin to a fluffier sounding Lonestar - assuming, of course, anything even gets any fluffier than that ever-so-feathery Lonestar. But whether these songs were composed-by-committee - it took nearly a full baseball team (seven overall) to write "If You Were My Girl" - or co-composed by such an oddball pairing as Richard Marx and Fee Waybill (of The Tubes fame), as on "Last One Standing," these fourteen unmemorable tracks sail by with pristine precision. Singer Brad Mates sings romance novel-ready sentiments, such as the pleading "I'll Die Trying," with plenty of forced passion and puppy dog sweetness.

The listener is left with the overriding impression that this album was created for the sole purpose of sounding good on the radio. But geez, there's also nothing wrong with dressing up a smartly written song! What if Emerson Drive had valued substance over sentiment? Well, that's one 'what if' that is never answered here.