Pion-Ear: Ray Goren’s “Songs For You”

photo courtesy of MOXIE

Holden Foreman, entertainment editor

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Here we go again, I thought to myself as I slipped Ray Goren’s “Songs For You,” released Aug. 21, 2015, into my laptop’s disc drive. Another self-proclaimed pop “artist” was ready to reduce my already waning faith in the industry. I reluctantly prepared myself for 20 minutes of torture in the name of TKC. Then, about 20 seconds into the EP’s first track, “Those Days,” I realized something: the 15-year-old Goren may not bring much new to the table, but his simplistic songs have the irresistible catchiness and relatability that warrant a spot on almost anyone’s playlist.

The singer-songwriter establishes an upbeat tone from the get-go in “Those Days,” as a mix of guitar, bass and electronic sounds accompany his gliding voice. Nevertheless, the song’s lyrics convey a sense of urgency; Goren explains, “All there is is greed / all there is is corruption.” He sees today’s world as imperfect, but he hopes people will use their limited time to take action instead of dwelling on its flaws. Goren speaks his message as truth, and this compelling conviction makes up for the song’s slightly repetitive chorus. Furthermore, the lyrics are easy to memorize and sing along to, drawing listeners into Goren’s pleasant state of mind.

“Light My Fire,” unfortunately, fails to follow up on the first track’s promise. Written by The Doors, the song is the only part of Goren’s work he did not compose himself, and it shows. “C’mon baby, light my fire,” Goren repeats again and again over a slow and sleepy beat that had me (and presumably most listeners) ready to skip to the next song. Sadly, the sleepiness continues: “Nobody’s with you when you’re down and out / nobody’s there to hold your hand,” Goren croons on the ballad “Down & Out,” an unoriginal take on heartbreak that at least showcases the young singer’s impressive voice at its best.

Luckily, Goren returns to form on “Song For Me,” in which he proudly proclaims, “Say whatcha wanna say / I don’t give a damn / got my sexy on / and a little cash.” Plenty of artists have tracks in which they explain their emotions as actual people with actual interests (see Bruno Mars’s “The Lazy Song”). Yet, Goren excels especially in the contagiously carefree style and free-flowing rhythm that define this track. “I don’t care what they say / I’mma do my own way,” the artist asserts, and he speaks the truth.

Finally, in “It’s on You,” Goren falls back to the somber subject matter of “Down & Out”; this time, however, he sounds confident and even relaxed, which greatly improves the harmony of his vocals. “God knows what’s good for me / so I guess that’s why we’re apart,” Goren sings, as he explains his lack of guilt in a failed relationship.

Overall, “Songs For You” highlights a young singer’s magnificent maturity and willingness to grow as an artist. The results aren’t always perfect, but Goren’s unique ability to alternate between upbeat and insightful grants a gift to listeners looking for both. And in today’s world of shams and sellouts, asking for more would be a crime.

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Four out of five Gold Ks