Fairytale? Has it ended for Alexander Rybak?

Alexander delivers the difficult second album, and seemingly, the odds are stacked against him. How do you top Fairytales? He has been quoted in the Norwegian press recently as saying he couldn’t care less what the critics say or how they rate his album.

Upon my initial hearing, No Boundaries, regrettably, appears to be a product of over indulgence and a hurried attempt to top the commercial success of his first album.

First Kiss gets the album off to a sweeping start – a charming blend of Eastern Europe strings with a Parisian accent in the ubiquitous accordion. A naive text, but catchy nonetheless. He tries to hard to recreate the Those Were the Days feeling that Fairytale managed to convey, not quite managing it.

Europe’s Skies – again, it’s like Alexander’s stuck on a stylistic treadmill. Stop it, I want to get off, I feel queasy. Once more, the text borders on the wrong side of banality.

I’m in Love -Alexander takes a stab at Eurodance – sounds like a Folies Bergère (!) number – slightly repetitive, with dance beats and accordion a plenty. Does have it’s moments, but I fear it will soon become boring after only a few listens.

Oah is, as feared, the low point of the album, bringing nothing new to the table. And when the eukelele kicks in, the listener may sit thinking "Jason Mraz can do this so much better". Strange hybrid of a song that somehow straddles musical genres – a toss up between country strings and sing a long.

Kaja’s Letter opens with as the title suggests, a letter being read aloud. And that’s it! Is this Alexander’s idea of album filler? If so, it backfires seriously, and shows a serious lack of judgement on the producer’s part.

5000 Letters is blissfully free of the usual string domination. A very innocent and simple melody; therein lies it’s appeal I would say. It’s filled with a charmingly wistful melancholy without being too depressing. One of the album’s better tracks.

Dare I Say deals with much the same subject matter that Alexander has broached previously (ie. love) but for a change the track is heavily piano led, although the strings still manage to sneak into the arrangement. A tad dull, the chorus however offers some pleasing chords and key changes.

Why Alexander has called a track Suomi is baffling – is it a tribute to his Finnish fans? This does nothing for me, it’s just bland from start to fin(n)ish – no pun intended. It’s as if Alexander is trying to please the punters, but failing miserably. If this was written as a tribute to me, I think I’d be slightly offended. Dull as dishwater.

Oh my God! Rybak meets Blink 182 on Why Not Me. Without a doubt the best track on the album. Finally a bit of attitude, a bit of punch, which we know young Mr. Rybak is capable of, breathing much longed for life into No Boundaries. But who’s Catherine I wonder?

Barndance is a jolly instrumental hoe down, which I can see will appeal to some, but quite simply seems so misplaced on the album.  

Disney Girls is unfortunately curdlingly banal, going nowhere fast. It trods along at a sluggish pace and no matter how perfect the choral harmonies are, nothing can save this track. To finish the song, he resorts to do do do and da da da, even whistling a few bars. Profoundly sleep inducing.

The track listing for No Boundaries is as follows:

First Kiss
Europe’s Skies
I’m In Love
Kaja’s Letter
5000 Letters
Dare I Say
Why Not Me
Disney Girls

How can Alexander’s latest offering be summed up briefly. Well, it is a crying shame that he has invested a year in this album, which he frankly could have saved himself. While there’s no disputing his talent – and he is good atwhat he does best – the album comes off as a messy affair, where he just has too many fingers in too many pies, only half-heartedly mastering some of the many genres he has presented us on No Boundaries. I so wanted to like his album, but I’m afraid to say it is a huge dissappointment, and had this been a music exam, he would have failed miserably. And I’m trying to be nice and tactile.

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