CD Review of Do You Believe by Matt White

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Do You Believe
starstarhalf starno starno star Label: Geffen
Released: 2006

If copping an unbelievably transparent John Mayer vibe was against the law, Matt White would be facing death by lethal injection right now. Or maybe even a firing squad. That’s how nakedly White apes Mayer’s “Your Body is a Wonderland” on his leadoff single, the charmingly gooey “Best Days”; from the sunny melody to the lyrics’ tales of afternoons spent rolling under rumpled sheets, it may as well be a cover of the overplayed hit. If White is trying to position himself as the next doe-eyed troubadour to grace dorm room walls, he could certainly do a lot worse.

Here’s the thing, though: songs like these rarely do their performers many favors in the credibility department, and first impressions count for a lot. (Witness Mayer’s own Sisyphean struggles to crawl out from under “Wonderland.”) If White wants to be taken seriously, he may need to make some drastic changes in the near future.

That’s the question at the heart of Do You Believe, really – are we supposed to ingest it thoughtlessly, like junk food, or is it meant to be a meal? The evidence points in either direction. Though the songs are generally focused on soft-focused puppy love, they’re soundly written, and show occasional bursts of major potential – “Best Days” is deeply derivative, but pleasantly so, “Miracles” has a certain moussed swagger, and “Love” (which you’ve already heard if you were one of the 15 people who’ve seen the independent film Little Manhattan) is every bit as tender and heartfelt as the title would seem to indicate. But Jack Joseph Puig’s production doesn’t do the material any favors; rather than allowing White’s songs to stand on their own, he’s smothered everything in a thick layer of Top 40-friendly shellac.

White’s got an elastic voice and a gift for melody, and it’ll be interesting to see what he does next, but unless you’ve got a serious musical sweet tooth, your answer to the question posed by the title will be “Not yet.”

~Jeff Giles