Although this album was never released in the United States (at least to my knowledge), the album is pretty easily available on cheap imports, so there’s that. The real criteria that matters for an album like this one is whether or not the artist is worthy of a best of compilation . Do we have multiple successful albums? Check–America Town, The Battle For Everything, and Two Lights, which combined make up the bulk of the songs on this fourteen song collection. Do we have songs that should be better known that make this worth buying for those who are already familiar with the artist’s main albums? Absolutely. Does the album have a good organization? It would appear to be so, with a chronological organization that begins with the artist’s material before stardom and closes with a couple of songs from the vastly underrated album Slice, although I would have been happy to see plenty more from that album here aside from the two singles. So, since we are dealing with a good artist with plenty of worthy material to choose from, let’s see how this album shakes out. Here is a track-by-track review:
Bella’s Birthday Cake: The only song from the album Message For Albert included here, this song represents Five for Fighting’s early material. Here we have a song that is a bit ragged and rough but has the impassioned piano playing and quirky slice of life lyrics that would become a staple of the artist in later efforts. This is a worthwhile beginning of a career, to be sure.
Easy Tonight: The first song included from America Town and my favorite of the songs from this album, this song was not a particularly big hit as a single, but it represents a thoughtful song from the point of view of a suicide, looking on the effect that his death had on the girl he loved. It’s a poignant song and evidence of the darker side of Five For Fighting’s musical worldview.
Superman (It’s Not Easy): The first big hit by Five For Fighting, this song achieved a great deal of popularity because of its degree of earnest and heartfelt sentiment about the difficulty of being a hero on September 11, 2001. Admittedly, for me, this song just does not have the sort of depth to overcome the murderous overplay the song received, but it’s hard to begrudge Five For Fighting their success with this acoustic ballad.
Something About You: The third and final song from America Town included here, this is an upbeat love song that is certainly a standout track that deserves to be remembered and appreciated. With a glorious falsetto singing and some driving guitar rhythms, this song is certainly among the faster songs among this collection and certainly a good balance to many of the piano ballads that Five For Fighting was more known for.
100 Years: A beautiful song from Five For Fighting’s album The Battle For Everything that became a big hit, this song reflects on the subject of aging. It’s a gorgeous piano line and the lyrics have some telling and interesting details. It has more than its share of sentimentality, but it’s a lovely song all the same, and kept Five For Fighting from being seen as a one hit wonder.
The Devil In The Wishing Well: This quirky song is definitely the sort of song deserves to be remembered in a collection like this. The song has a lovely piano line and some really interesting lyrics but the song was undoubtedly too odd to be successful as a hit, even though it is among the singer-songwriter’s better songs, full of love and the hint of risk and menace.
If God Made You: My favorite song from The Battle For Everything, this song shows Five For Fighting reflecting on divine providence in love. The value that we place on creation, including that of a loved one, is often a key factor in determining how much we appreciate and recognize God’s love for us.
The Best: An obscure song not from any of Five For Fighting’s studio albums, this song is beautiful and lovely, and is certainly an obscure gem that deserves its place on this collection. A piano ballad that reflects on the best kind of love, anyone would be honored to have this song written about them or even dedicated to them.
The Riddle: A beautiful song that reflects on death and growing up, this was a worthy minor hit single for Five For Fighting from Two Lights. A driving piano beat, this song comes with the assurance that the reason for the world is relationship, and it also addresses questions of identity, making it hopeful as well as reflective.
World: This beautiful song, itself a minor hit from Two Lights, invites the listener to wonder what kind of world they could create if they could design a world from scratch. The thought experiment the song represents is a charming one, and one that can help us better understand our ideals and what we find fault about with the world we currently live in.
I Just Love You: An album track from Two Lights, this song is a somewhat sentimental love ballad, and while it is not my favorite song from Five For Fighting, the song is lovely enough and expresses the love that someone shows a partner shows when on tour and one cannot be together, even when one doesn’t know why one loves someone who is so far from home so often.
Freedom Never Cries: The fourth song included from Two Lights, this song is another quirky but tuneful and frequently melancholy slice of life song from Five For Fighting that reflects on patriotism and self-interest and personal longings. The song wasn’t a hit, but it demonstrates the hard-won patriotism of Five For Fighting and certainly gives homage to the origin of the band’s popularity in the age of the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Chances: The first single from the Five For Fighting album Slice, this song is a lovely love song on piano that does not break any ground for Five For Fighting but is certainly a beautiful song that deals with the chancy nature of love and relationships. Given the nature of our world, having some optimism about love is certainly worthwhile and beneficial.
Slice: The title track of Five For Fighting’s album Slice and the second single from the album, this song is the closing one of the Playlist collection, and it is certainly a beautiful song with a focus on nostalgia and the wrestling with identity towards an inclusive view of America as a place of diverse people who struggle with isolation and a desire for unity simultaneously.
Overall, this is a solid album and the song choices are generally pretty strong. None of the songs is obvious dead weight and for the most part there is considerable balance. Given that the 14 songs included are only 55 minutes long, the collection could have used another song from Message For Albert like “The Last Great American,” a standout track, and probably a couple more of the better album tracks from Slice like “Above The Timberline” and “Tuesday” without being remotely too long as a collection. Of course, if a band/singer like Five For Fighting’s biggest problem is having enough of their great songs on a best of collection, that is a good problem to have. This is a solid album that hits most of the high points for Five For Fighting, and that is good enough.
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