...Something to Be

Studio Album by released in 2005
...Something to Be's tracklist:
This Is How a Heart Breaks
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Lonely No More
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Ever the Same
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I Am an Illusion
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When the Heartache Ends
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Something to Be
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All That I Am
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Problem Girl
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Fallin' to Pieces
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My, My, My
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Streetcorner Symphony
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Now Comes the Night
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...Something to Be review

It's common knowledge that solo albums are simply an excuse for a frustrated band member to indulge their experimental sides and Rob Thomas, singer for multi-platinum rockers Matchbox Twenty is not one to pass on the opportunity. Having already explored the classic rock thing through his collaborations with Mick Jagger and Santana, Thomas goes the other way here with results that are unexpected and, sometimes, totally unbelievable. On his album Something To Be he veers from modern R&B on the Justin Timberlake aping Lonely No More to vintage prog-rock in All That I Am, touching on all points in between. There are a few nods to the Matchbox canon with Ever The Same and This Is How A Heart Breaks but, as the title suggests, this is an album about finding himself. Rob's voice is strong, masculine, propulsive and dynamic-yet beautiful and even vulnerable sounding at times. Rob successfully experiments with several types of musical arrangements and themes about love and general inner peace and happiness on this album.

Backed by a varied group of players including Robert Randolph, Heartbreaker Mike Campbell and Dr. Dre bassist Mike Elizondo, Thomas hits to all fields. Lonely No More, the first single, and Something to Be are riffy wonders that show him making a separate peace with the hip-hop universe. Problem Girl is gorgeous folk rock. Even Matchbox-ish numbers like Ever the Same sound fresh in this new context. This Is How A Heart Breaks has a catchy beat with an excellent musical arrangement. I Am an Illusion (featuring a Bessie Jones sample and Robert Randolph on lap steel) sounds tailor-made for Sting; it should be considered for a single. Equally feisty is the title track. Conversely, When the Heartache Ends is warm and tender. The album ends in a very touching way with Now Comes The Night, which has a beautiful piano intro.

Given the relatively lackluster reception of More Than You Think You Are, the timing was right for Thomas to launch his official solo career in the spring of 2005. It was time to give his music a new coat of paint, similar to how Smooth spun his career in a different direction, and that's exactly what his solo debut, Something to Be, is: a slick new variation on Thomas' signature sound. Thomas have made a conscious attempt to have this solo album feel lighter, brighter, and a little hipper than Matchbox Twenty's music, adding slight drum loops and electronic elements to the rhythms while taking Thomas away from strictly guitar-based arrangements. Heavy on keyboards, elastic guitars, horns, insistent rhythms, and even the occasional gospel-inspired backing chorus or worldbeat inflection, this is a far splashier affair than the average Matchbox Twenty album, and that alone would make Something to Be a noteworthy solo record, since it is indeed a different beast than Thomas' regular gig, but the fresher sound is married to a strong set of songs that play to his strengths as a craftsman of big, anthemic post-alternative mainstream rock. With Something to Be, Thomas delivers an album that is at once familiar and fresh. It may not be something to win over the doubters, but it's enough to give him a promising new beginning to the second decade of his recording career.