It takes a bit of time to define yourself and your artistry no matter what genre of music you make, but this is especially true of pop artists. AJ Smith hasn’t necessarily been rushing into his newfound spotlight to date, but there’s no denying the urgency with which his talent is reaching toward the mainstream when listening to his new single and music video “Better.” Whether intentional or not, Smith just might have made a brilliantly accessible pop song that feels like something born to win mass affections, and it’s rightly getting a lot of attention from those who follow the genre closely.
There’s a knotty undertow to the percussion in this track, but the overall indulgence of the guitar element definitely reenergizes an otherwise languid master mix. I can see why Smith wanted to go small-scale with the production quality in this release given his continuous desire to put the spirit of the material ahead of the polish on the music, which is a more admirable decision than what a lot of his peers would have done with this same song. The instrumentation in “Better” is rich enough without a synthesized boost, and thus, there is none to be found.
The vocal harmonies that Smith is dispatching from behind the microphone are undisputedly a bit sugary, but it’s honestly this player’s forte to go sweet over striking when it comes to setting up a hook. The previous content that I’ve heard out of his camp has never verged on saccharinity, but he has the mainstream pop framing down to a science in this release – to such an extent, one might argue, that it no longer sounds like the pose that it does for any artist who is just starting their career and trying to get noticed.
AJ Smith is a very charismatic personality in pop music, and I like him even more after getting a better taste of his depth in this most recent performance. There’s still some room for him to keep growing into the artistic model he’s fashioning for himself in “Better,” but what this release affirms is a kinship with the audience and his medium that you can’t very well fake in the studio, or anywhere else, without relying on a lot of external assistance. That’s nothing Smith needs, and if I had to guess what’s next for him based on this performance, I would have to say he’s bound for a much larger stage than the underground can afford him.