When I told my friends I had tickets to a Ryan Cabrera concert last weekend, their responses varied from “Who’s Ryan Cabrera?” to “Ryan Cabrera? I know, like, one song by him. Why are you going?"
To be quite honest, I didn’t really know. But Cabrera recently released his first single in five years— “I See Love,” out this past August—so I was curious. Plus, there was indeed that one song by Ryan Cabrera I knew—and loved: “Photo” for me, “Say” for the friend I managed to drag along, and for most, probably “On The Way Down” (#15 on Billboard Hot 100, 2006). And who could forget Cabrera’s permanent guest spot as Ashlee Simpson’s boyfriend on MTV’s “The Ashlee Simpson Show?”
At the very least, a scan of Google images proves Cabrera nice to look at—aside from the huge, blond porcupine of gelled hair (which I was willing to bet was just a 2006 thing; he would have cut it by now). Most of all, if this tour really did launch him back into the music scene after his brief one-hit-wonder career, why not see it happen firsthand?
Sadly, though, I can say with full certainty that, judging by what I saw, Ryan Cabrera will not be making his comeback anytime soon.
I think it’s pretty evident that you can’t survive in the modern music industry without semi-regularly reinventing yourself. Take Taylor Swift’s newest album, Red. (Yes, I love her with all my heart, no shame). In her latest offering, Swift strays away from country and goes more Carly Rae Jepsen, while still keeping her original you-broke-my-heart angst. The result? Pure brilliance, I say (and boy, don’t the sales show it). Cabrera, on the other hand, even after five years, isn’t changing it up at all. “I See Love” is still the same old romance-infused, acoustic-guitar based pop, objectively identical to all of his other singles. It’s not a bad song; it was perfectly enjoyable to hear live, actually. It was just stale.
Beyond musical style, I think what disappointed me most about Cabrera’s performance was his lack of heart. Ryan is certainly visibly talented: He has a decent voice and was showing off his guitar skills all night. Still, his performance showed the minimal amount of enthusiasm, littered with questionable jokes. For instance, one of Cabrera’s ways of “advertising” seemed to be talking about the size of his penis. I do understand some bitterness on his part, since he was playing for a rather small crowd that Saturday night (only around 50—yikes). However, I believe a good musician should play not for the sake of his audience, but simply for the joy of playing.
Meanwhile, many others are willing to take his place—Mikey Deleasa, his opening act, would actu- ally be a great candidate. Deleasa was funny, lively, and engaging, despite the fact only about 20 people had shown up by the time he took the stage.
Also, plenty of other singer-songwriters have already hopped from early-aughts one-hit-wonder to present day success: Gavin DeGraw, who penned 2003’s alt-angsty “I Don’t Want to Be” (AKA, the One Tree Hill theme song), topped the charts again this summer with “Not Over You” (and, I’m sure, more to come with his new album Sweeter).
The worst part, though? Cabrera’s hair is still just as porcupine-like as ever with its new brown dye job. Look, Ryan: if you really want to make a comeback, lose the gel and gain some perceptible passion. And maybe try to get back with Ashlee.