Adam Rader sings straight-up pop music. There’s nothing indie about it, nor is there anything punk about it, or anything about it. It’s pop. There’s whistling, a jaunty piano line, peppy drums, a swooping melody and some nice guitar work in “Any Way I Can.” It’s a charming little tune. It does have a little bit of a adult contemporary bent in the chorus, but it’s forgivable, given the B-side here.
Rader’s take on the classic “In the Ghetto” is absolutely pitch-perfect; he nails the tune without getting deadpan or maudlin. Both sides are possible pitfalls – instead, Rader pulls out subtle nuances that I didn’t think existed in the almost comically didactic source material. Piano, unassuming acoustic guitar, gentle pedal steel and a brushed snare shuffle provide an easy canvas for Rader’s soft tenor to paint on. The results are surprising in the best way.
Rader either got super-lucky with “In the Ghetto,” or he’s studied how pop songs work. I’d bank on the latter. Still, judging from his above-average but not jaw-dropping A-side, he’s got some work to do before he writes his own iconic tunes. He’s definitely on his way, though.