Florida based singer/songwriter Rob Alexander’s fifth single from the album Long Road Coming Home, “When I’m Gone (For George Michael)”, is the finest track I’ve yet to hear from his stellar debut. The earlier singles have many merits and have garnered considerable acclaim from a variety of reviewers and outlets, but “When I’m Gone” goes a step further to these ears. Alexander’s song overflows with confidence and sounds like he has transmuted an array of influences from past decades through his own personality and emerged with something recalling past glories yet quite his own and of its own time. It isn’t something you can often say about modern music, particularly songs in a pop or adult contemporary vein, but this single rates as a smashing success in my opinion and has undeniable virtues that seem to preordain it to have a transformative effect on his commercial and artistic fortunes alike. It will likewise move the hearts of many.
His voice is the center of it all for me. He isn’t a soul singer in the classic sense and nor is this song related to that genre, but the power of his voice and the grit-laden texture of its sound conspire to touch your heart before you even quite realize what is happening. He throws himself headlong into the track, but don’t mistake that statement for a lack of finesse. The stylishness of his performance is impossible to deny, but it isn’t empty posturing and never comes at the expense of deeper emotional meaning. His phrasing reaches greater and greater heights as the track progresses and soars to impressive peaks with each payoff line throughout the number.
Some performers treat lyrics as an afterthought, just a vehicle for them to show off their vocal chops and never attempt to say anything meaningful or personal with their writing. This isn’t the case with Alexander. His feeling for the now deceased Michael is present in each line, but discerning listeners will soon get the sense that the thoughts and feelings conveyed by his lyric are just as much a reflection of his own thoughts about our finite lives, how we affect others, and what we leave behind. The subject, like love songs, is as old as song itself, but few modern performers dare broach it. It isn’t a downer in Alexander’s hands, however, despite the strand of melancholy running through the song.
The music reinforces the fact that the track isn’t mired in despair. There is something about the way this song builds, when and how multiple instruments enter the mix, that embraces life rather than giving way to grief and sadness. There’s a strong element of catharsis here, yes, but it is catharsis in a healthy way and never morbid. The guitar solo included in the song surprised some, I didn’t expect him to add one for some reason, but it provides one of the most effective moments in the track. Rob Alexander’s “When I’m Gone” will not be loved by everyone who hears the song, no song is, but I believe many will be moved by the emotion lighting up each second of the cut.
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