Hunter Hayes, ‘(Encore)’ – Album Review
Hunter Hayes' '(Encore)' is his debut album in its entirety plus two additional vocalists, one additional pass through the studio and five new tracks. With 17 songs, it's a monster for those who don't already own 'Hunter Hayes.' The additions and changes make it worth the effort.
It's difficult to find better duet partners than Jason Mraz and Ashley Monroe. The two make 'Everybody's Got Somebody But Me' and 'What You Gonna Do' (respectively) into more fulfilling, meaningful moments. Mraz and Hayes are sonically similar, which makes for easy harmonies. Monroe's voice brings a new sadness to the ballad. Melancholy is her specialty, after all.
The re-recording of 'More Than I Should' is amped up, but not a significant improvement (the original was one of the best from the 2011 project as-is). That leaves the five new songs, including Hayes' hit single 'I Want Crazy.'
Compare '(Encore)' to a bottomless bowl of ice cream. More doesn't necessarily mean better -- at some point you have to set it aside, but you know you'll return to it soon and perhaps discover some new way to enjoy the flavor. Songs like 'In a Song' and 'Better Than This' fit in easily with the 12 original tracks. 'I Want Crazy' is the best of the five new cuts and arguably among the top three on the entire collection.
This isn't a project that reveals a new side of the singer or points to some new direction. But it's far from an effort slapped together to take advantage of a red-hot act. Traditionally. an encore brings something to a close, so it's fair to assume Hayes' next step will be a significant variation from his last -- one that shows growth and lessons learned from nearly three years spent on the road. By releasing '(Encore),' he's increased the pressure to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump.