Album Review: Gavin Degraw, “Chariot” (2003)

Gavin Degraw had somewhat of a hard time establishing himself against the rest of the singer/songwriters that were big in 2003. It wasn’t until the teen drama, One Tree Hill, highlighted Degraw’s song I Don’t Want To Be during the opening credits, that people really became interested in his music.

Gavin Degraw’s debut album, Chariot, really shows off his talent. Degraw is responsible for all vocals, piano, keyboards, and lyrics. The album is filled with catchy tunes and nice melodies.

Follow Through was actually the first single from Chariot, and is the first song on the album. The song is clean and simple, with a nice guitar hook and clear vocals from Degraw. The chorus is pretty catchy, and makes for a good song for the summer.

The title track, Chariot, arrives next and is a bit edgier than the song before it. This song relies mostly on a heavy piano melody and guitar. Degraw has a really nice voice; it’s a bit scratchy, which sets him apart from the other male singer/songwriters, but his vocals are smooth at the same time. This song seems to have an underlying spiritual message to it, though it’s never plainly addressed in the song. Either way, this is clearly one of the best tracks on the album.

Just Friends is another one of the best songs on the album. It opens with piano, and Degraw comes in singing to a girlfriend who may not be faithful. The best part about this song is that while Degraw is the victim in the relationship, he comes off as being very angry (“I’ve had other options too/But all I want is you/…Why weren’t you true/You know I trusted you”) and sincere (“I’ll forgive you for what you’ve done/If you say that I’m the one”) at the same time.

Gavin DeGraw

Another great track is [Nice To Meet You] Anyway. Again, the melody is pretty simple (vocals, piano, guitar), but catchy. The lyrics are also simple, but hold a nice concept of meeting someone that you really like but not pursuing anything because you’re already with someone else. The bridge pretty much explains the feelings of anyone else who has ever been in such a predicament: “So before this goes too far/Let me tell you what you are/You’re amazing, I’m attracted/But I’m terribly distracted/…Because I just found someone special/And that’s really something special/…Nice to meet you anyway”. The song is almost like a bite back to the person in the previous track; instead of cheating, Degraw sticks with his significant other.

Chemical Party took a long time to grow on me. Musically, the song is pretty forgettable. The chorus is a bit muddled, and the lyrics aren’t incredibly profound (“You’re just too high to see the point/You think your name is pass the joint” may be the best line in the song), but it may be the directness of the song that made me eventually like it. Degraw is obviously making a statement against drinking and drugs (“Everyone’s high/Get struck by lightning/Who here would feel it?/Who here could heal it?/Who here would try?”). While the sentiment is nice, this song gets misplaced behind the better tracks on the album.

Belief seems to suffer from the same syndrome of it’s predecessor. It’s actually quite a beautiful sounding song; Degraw’s vocals are wonderful, and the melody is very nice. This time around, Degraw writes about trust in a relationship, and even though everything should work perfectly on the track, it doesn’t seem to stand on it’s own. I’ve recently become a fan of this song, but that was after owning this CD for almost a year.

We really hit the filler tracks with songs like Crush and Meaning. Crush is too annoying for me to listen to; the guitar seems generic and even Degraw’s voice sounds a bit whiny during the chorus and the lyrics are equally awkward (“I want to/I need to/I have to have you/You’re so much to touch/Girl, you’re too much”). Meaning could be okay- the lyrics are decent and the melody is nice enough- but it’s simply too boring to listen to.

The album picks back up with I Don’t Want To Be. The reason I, and most other people, love this song is because of the message it puts across; having confidence and loving yourself for who you are and not changing for anyone. The song starts off with Degraw stating exactly who he is (“a prison guard’s son/…a specialist’s son/…the birth of two souls in one”) and as he goes into the chorus restating that “I don’t want to be anything other me”. Everything about this song works well; the guitar is loud ang edgy, and Degraw sounds awesome as he belts out the lyrics through the verses and choruses.

The album comes to an end with two of my favorite songs. More Than Anyone is the only actual ballad on the album, and Degraw proves that while he can rock out on songs like Chariot and I Don’t Wanna Be, he can also tackle heartfelt ballads. This song is a favorite because of the honest lyrics about unrequited love (“What can I say to convince you/To change your mind of me?/I’m going to love you more than anyone/I’m going to hold you closer than before”), and the soft piano and vocals. Degraw really conveys the emotion he feels during the song and it’s a wonderful track.

Over-Rated picks up the tempo and provides a great ending to the album. This one is about giving yourself completely in a relationship (“I just want to give it all you/I want to share this with you/Make you mine and mine will be all yours/Whatever you want and more”), and another catchy chorus guarantees this song will be stuck in your head for days to come.

All in all, Gavin Degraw’s debut disc is well done. He has enough vocal ability and talent to take him far, and it will be nice to see how his songwriting skills have developed with his next album.

Rating: 3_stars.svg

Track Listing
1. Follow Through
2. Chariot
3. Just Friends
4. [Nice To Meet You] Anyway
5. Chemical Party
6. Belief
7. Crush
8. I Don’t Want To Be
9. Meaning
10. More Than Anyone
11. Over-rated

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gFCW3PHBws]
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