Matthew John is known for his smooth grooves and divine harmonies, but not enough has been said about his remarkably adept lyricism, which is undeniably the driving force behind his record The Best of Matthew John. Whether he’s pining for his lover’s heart, inspiring us to chase after our dreams or reminding us of what it means to really be there for someone through thick and thin, John delivers some of the most poetic verses of the year to date in this latest record, and I would recommend that anyone who hasn’t already heard it take the time to pick it up this summer.
In “Reach for the Stars,” Matthew John starts us off with a bit of sage wisdom in his serenade; “On the road of life / You will stumble and fall / As you choose your way / To achieve it all” before laying into a self-aware, relentlessly honest chorus that is, in essence, the perfect combination of motivation and melodicism in a singular slew of words. He invites us to abandon our inhibitions and look at life from a more relaxed perspective than what we might have thought ourselves capable of before embracing these movingly evocative harmonies.
With “You Are There,” John gets introspective with us while still acting as the sophisticated storyteller that he presented himself as in “Reach for the Stars,” and alongside a sexy guitar lick, dishes out some of the sweetest grooves that I’ve had the chance to review over the past six months. “You Are There” strings some really affectionate haikus together inside of a three and a half minute pop song, but despite its straightforward prose it translates just as urbanely as any of the material on The Best of Matthew Johndoes.
The most iconic track that this extended play has to offer – bar none – is John’s sensuous blues ballad “Let’s Begin Again,” a song that features a brooding vocal from the star of the show and a chorus that could melt even the hardest of hearts. Rather than breaking down why, how or who has vexed him in the realm of romance, MJ is intent on keeping the flame of two kindred spirits alive from start to finish in this song. He’s not as blunt here as he is in “Reach for the Stars,” but he doesn’t need to be; if his words aren’t enough of a mood-setter, the toned rhythm in the background most definitely is.
“Shine for Me” might sport one of the most surreal guitar solos you’ll hear in an MJ composition, but that’s not the real reason to give this track a second look when spinning this disc. John is confessing something to us in this piece; something that transcends the standard love song narrative altogether. He’s expressing a devotion that could apply to everything from faith to family to the fanciful fretwork of the song’s refrain, and much like the other tracks that we discover here, it’s as lyrically tuneful and well-rounded as it gets in modern pop. The bottom line? If these four songs truly are some of the best that Matthew John has in his repertoire, he deserves a lot more attention than he’s received in his career thus far.