By Al Kaufman
You can only hang in circles for so long before you release your inevitable CD. Matt Morris wrote five songs for Christina Aguilera's Stripped album, and has also had his songs recorded by heavy hitters like Kelly Clarkston, Reba McEntire, and good buddy Justin Timberlake. He is the son of country and Broadway music star Gary Morris, and, like Britney Spears and Timberlake, was a Mouseketeer.
Morris signed with Timberlake's new label, Tennman, in 2007, and was scheduled to release his first full-length, the Charlie Sexton-produced The Un-American LP, in 2008. For whatever reason, the CD was delayed. The powers that be no doubt decided that with Bush now out and Obama in, acting un-American would be bad for profit, so the CD was re-named When Everything Breaks Open.
Unlike most people who first made their living as a songwriter, Morris has a fabulous voice. It has all the sweetness and theatrical quality of the late, great Freddie Mercury. And when he uses it, and layers and harmonizes it as Mercury did, the results are gorgeous. Unfortunately, in his attempts to be earnest and political, such as on "The Un-American" and "Bloodline," he gets too caught up in his pedantics and does not allow his voice to flourish as it should.
While Texas guitar god Sexton was the producer for The Un-American LP, this final version is produced by Sexton and Timberlake. The second half of the CD has some nice, full-guitar sounding ballads that wear Sexton's stamp, but the CD opens with "Don't You Dare." It's a song that oozes the white boy funk that has worked so well for Timberlake. With all the names behind this track, it is all but guaranteed to be huge in the clubs and on pop radio. The only other track that comes close to it in terms of commercial appeal (and let's face it, that's what this CD is all about), is the reggae-tinged "Love." Even with innocuous lyrics like, "Love, for lack of a better word," the melody keeps you moving.
Morris can sing. He can write a pop song. He can also write a lot of filler. But he's got friends in high places. He'll do just fine.