Richard Marx – Songwriter

BMG Rights Management

Release Date: September 30th 2022

Reviewed by: Joshua Andre

Richard Marx– Songwriter (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. Same Heartbreak Different Day
  2. Only A Memory
  3. Anything
  4. Moscow Calling
  5. Believe In Me
  6. Shame On You
  7. My Love, My Enemy
  8. Just Go
  9. One More Yesterday
  10. We Are Not Alone
  11. Everything I’ve Got
  12. Misery Loves Company
  13. One Day Longer
  14. Breaking My Heart
  15. We Had It All
  16. Always
  17. Still In My Heart
  18. Maybe
  19. As If We’ll Never Love Again
  20. Never After

Richard Marx, a popular and renowned hit songwriter back in the day for his 80’s hit “Right Here Waiting”, could be seen by some right now as being irrelevant. I mean, we blogged about him being one of the most influential artist of all time; but for Richard, success was a brief ten years, and then… virtually nothing much else. He’s still releasing music and has been in the industry for over 30 years. But a look at his Wikipedia discography page reveals a lot of hits in the late 80’s and 90’s, and then songs that haven’t charted since. Richard is a songwriter that early on wrote quite a lot for himself, and then had to pivot later on in his career to write songs for others. And because of this change in how he went about doing his work; some would say that his influence is diminished. If you talk to the common man on the street and say ‘do you know about Richard Marx?’, I reckon they’ll have no idea who you are talking about. Even if you say ‘Hey, have you heard of ‘Right Here Waiting’?’, you may not receive any recognition. If you play the song though for them- then you may see someone say ‘Oh, that song, I’ve heard that one and loved that one for years!’. And that may speak about the power of a song, and that it transcends the songwriter or the artist… but the fact of the matter is that Richard Marx represents a breed of songwriters that have almost died out. The traditional singer/songwriters writing big sweeping ballads, and tracks that sit in the hearts and minds of many, but for some reason are not big now, because of pop dominating the airwaves and the radio. Richard Marx, to me is like the mainstream version of Mark Schultz or Michael W. Smith; artists who are unassuming and who keep plugging away. Richard isn’t flashy in his songs, and perhaps that could eb said to be his downfall (in terms of popularity and sales).

I won’t really expound upon Richard and my thoughts about his music (because that is all mentioned in my blog about him); but what I concluded, was that though he’s not popular at the moment, his body of work throughout the 5 decades he’s been active, is enough for me to declare him being influential. Maybe all of you may not like it that he’s only writing songs and staying in his lane in terms of music, and not being musically diverse enough. But Richard has done what he’s done for a long time, and it works. Richard Marx, though not popular, needs to be an artist you should listen to, and pronto. His songs are sometimes cliché, sometimes a bit indie. But all of them are honest, all are personal, and all can and will inspire and impact at least one person. As Richard reveals to us that the way he has evolved as a singer and as a songwriter is quite organic, and lends itself to the new way he is writing and performing his music, how about we let Richard’s career be a testament? If we keep plugging away, if we have our friends and family by our side, and if we trust God’s plan for our lives; then I’m positive that we can and will be ok. Richard’s music reminds us that though songwriters aren’t recognised enough, they need to be congratulated; and I’d say that without words, a song doesn’t live on and on and on. The pop music of today can entertain and can sustain for a bit… but the music of yesterday and the timeless classics stir the soul, and that’s the type of music I’d want to listen to most of all in the coming years.

I had a lot of time to sit around and think during the pandemic. I had just put out the last album, Limitless, and it was received really well. We were just about to start the tour for it and then everything went to s***. It gave me time to finish my book, which came out a year later. I think the writing and the finishing of the book was a catalyst and a component of why I ended up doing this project. I’d dabbled with the idea of spending some years doing an album of this kind that was different than what I’d done before. For instance, I’d toyed with the idea of doing a real country-influenced album, because I’ve written so many country songs with different country artists and songwriters. But in writing the book and covering all of the different genres I’ve written, worked and produced in, it sort of made me think, “Well, I’ve certainly managed to get away with jumping from genre to genre as a songwriter, without any kind of slap on the wrist.”

If anything, it’s a really nice thing to have such a schizophrenic resume as a songwriter. It means diversity. As you know, there is this sort of unwritten rule that as a singer and as an artist, you kind of need to somewhat stay in your lane. I’ve always had some diversity on the albums, especially Rush Street, [which] I thought was really schizophrenic in a good way. It had everything from “Playing With Fire” to “Hazard” to “Keep Coming Back” – which you know, all on the same album, it was kind of crazy. “Streets of Pain,” Tommy Lee played on. But honestly, I thought, “Why the f*** not?” What’s the worst that could happen? People who don’t like me, won’t like me more?”

Also, one of the things that did factor in were comments that I’ve gotten from mostly guys who are fans and are supportive of me. They’ll go, “Man, I love that new record, but I really wish you’d do another rock record. I miss your rock stuff.” That was a factor too. So then, I thought, “Well, what would be really cool is to do a multi-genre double album.” The only thing I left out, which is the music I love the most, was sort of an R&B-influenced thing and that is something that I do have in my back pocket, doing an album that would be somewhat of an homage to Earth, Wind & Fire, the Brothers Johnson and the ‘70s R&B that I loved so much. I think I could do a fun album of that with a lot of guests and cool production. But I wanted to just focus on these four slots for this one [rock to country to pop to ballads].

But you all didn’t come here to read about the history of and my own conclusions surrounding Richard Marx. I mean, that’s what Wikipedia and my blog is for, am I right? This past month, Richard unveiled his latest studio album Songwriter, and standing at a whopping 20 tracks… I’ve decided, maybe naively, to briefly voice my thoughts. Richard still is undoubtedly not popular at the moment… but has Songwriter changed that preconception? Opening with the melody “Same Heartbreak Different Day”, we are met with an emotionally charged and powerful track about the immediate aftermath of someone trying to get over their ex, and them lamenting that each and every day they’re still experiencing the same heartbreak, and they’re still not over that person. It’s a track that isn’t indicative of Richard’s life at the moment- he is indeed happily married for a while now. But Richard has been so good at singing thru the lens of a persona- whether fictitious or based on someone else that he knows; and so this melody is Richard singing through the lens of someone else who is hurting. Is this track relatable? Yes, it is, as it speaks about how sometimes you can feel stuck at the abrupt end of a relationship; and feeling that way is an important part of life. yet for me, the execution here feels like a track from the 90’s. Does it hold up now? Ummm… it might if that’s the type of music you’re into. But I’m certain that the generation of today won’t even be drawn to tracks like this. That’s part and parcel of the job, I suppose, and Richard reminds us still that he’s here and he’s ready for a comeback, no matter who actively come to listen to him.

The rest of Songwriter is vintage Richard Marx (with Richard dividing his album up to 4 quadrants: the first five pop songs, the next 5 rock, the next 5 country and the last 5 ballads)- and that can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the lens you see the album through. “Believe In Me”, a pop/rock melody, speaks about Richard wanting to be a person that someone else (a friend or a partner) believes in, about wanting to be that shoulder to cry on, or that helping hand that you can reach out for; while “Anything” a dance/EDM track, has Richard reiterating that his ex does not mean anything to him at all- sort of like a refrain he has to tell himself over and over the really believe it, because he is actually still not over the other person. “Moscow Calling”, one of the most vibrant, meaningful, impacting, and powerful songs on the album, speaks about two people who on the surface don’t seem right for each other- but in true Hollywood fashion, the protagonist in the song has this light bulb moment and wants to give the ‘doomed’ relationship one more shot. And as Richard eloquently sings out ‘…operator, this is Moscow calling, can you hurry, ’cause the tears are falling, and there’s only so much silence I can take, tried the number about a thousand times, one more second, I’ll lose my mind, can you help me? I pray it’s not too late…’, we don’t actually know if these two people are happy by the end of it; however, Richard subtly encourages us all to seize the day and to take the moments when they come- because we do not know the future and we do not want to have any regrets at all.

“Only A Memory”, a pop tune, speaks about Richard (or in this case the persona) fantasising or daydreaming about someone who he hasn’t meant or has maybe only seen from afar (hence the ‘memory’ part of the song), with Richard thinking about an ‘alternate reality’ where he is with this other person that he is fantasising about. Kind of like a Marvel What If scenario; and though this thing that Richard is describing in the song isn’t that healthy- the melody does warn us to never stay in the ‘regrets’ or the ‘what-if’s’. We can gloss over that, sure, but we cannot fully commit to living in the here and now, if we instead think about the could have been’s. So, what is the cure to this ailment? Sometimes it’s waking up and realising that this one life is all you’ve got, but however we understand that we need to be living in reality and not a fantasy; Richard has indeed unveiled a melody that is a launching pad for healthy discussion about a myriad of issues. “Shame On You”, a rock melody directed to the haters and the keyboard warriors who spout degrading comments at Richard and at anyone who disagrees even a little bit with them, is a refreshing melody that is a ‘check yourself in the mirror’ kind of song. It’s a track that encourages us to lead with love and listening to people who think differently from yourself as opposed to leading with hate; while “Just Go” is a romantic melody dedicated to the person Richard loves- as he eloquently relays that he wants to just go with them on a romantic getaway just because he can.

“My Love, Me Enemy”, a dichotomous rock tune, juxtaposes the persona’s love for this person with their insatiable desire for sadism and machoism- with Richard reminding us that people are flawed, and people love who they love regardless if it makes sense or not; while the reflective and contemplative ballad of lamentation of “One More Yesterday” is a track of regret and wishing and hoping for a different outcome, with Richard declaring to his partner that ‘…I was never gonna let you down, gave you solid ground when your world was shaking, how could it come to this, all I tried to fix only ended up breaking, I remember long before we laid to rest, the promises that washed away, what I’d give for one more yesterday…’. “We Are Not Alone”, a full on rock track, and probably one of the melodically hardest tracks Richard has recorded, speaks about human connection, with Richard wondering if we are indeed all alone or if we as humans can indeed have a true friend or have family standing beside us at all times; while the rock tunes keep coming with “Everything I’ve Got”, a song that has Richard declaring that he’s going to give his love everything he has- that they are going to try to make their relationship work- and who knows where that will lead?

“One Day Longer”, the lead single, is a co-write with Keith Urban, and is Richard’s attempt (and a good one at that!) at country music, as he relays through the persona that he wants to give a struggling relationship one more day to hopefully salvage something beneficial and maybe rekindle the spark in the relationship: We wrote it at his house starting at 10 a.m. and by 12:30 p.m., the song was almost done. I remember Keith saying to me, ‘Ricardo, I love this song but I’m really hungry right now and I hate everything when I’m hungry.’ A couple days later, he was no longer into it. I sent Keith a voice note saying that I was putting out ‘One Day Longer,’ and he texts me back and he says, ‘I have no recollection of that song, but it sounds really good’. He sounded like he couldn’t believe that we would write something so good together. Also another winner in my opinion for Richard is “Breaking My Heart”, as though the lyrics are morbid and depressing (he admits and realises that the person will continue to break his heart over and over), the melody and the country atmosphere of this song is actually pretty catchy and thoroughly engaging. “Misery Loves Company”, another well-written and powerful country song (is the latter half of this album a set of country songs?), is a fun listen, as Richard emphasises that he just wants a good time, and implores the listeners to ‘…come on and listen to the band, cancel all of your plans, let me buy you another round, I want the voices in my head to be quiet instead, let your laughter drown ‘em out, my recent past really kicked my ass, did quite a number on me, my misery would love your company…’; while “We Had It All” is a real early 2000’s Keith Urban type of country song that is a highlight on this album- a real country ballad that has me miss that type of music from 20 years back- as I wonder why the music today can’t hold a candle to the melodies of yesteryear!

The last quarter of Songwriter is where Richard really shines as a vocalist- the ballads really take me back to the “Right Here Waiting” era. “Always”, an ode to Richard’s wife, speaks about finding that special someone in your life and loving them forever and ever; while the emotional and personal “Still In My Heart” speaks about Richard’s mother’s passing in 2021, as Richard acknowledges that both his parents (who have passed away) still live on in his heart. The acoustic guitar ballad “Maybe”, is where Richard eloquently sings about the hope that he has that maybe the love he has with his wife will be enough to keep them going together for all eternity; while the penultimate melody of the already gigantic album is the strings led personal ballad “As If We’ll Never Love Again”, which speaks about a love so great and so pure and so true, that Richard can juts keep on loving this person, as if they’ll never love anyone else ever again. Songwriter then ends with “Never After”, a melody where the persona sings to another person, and hoping against hope that they are genuine in their love for him, and that they are not stringing him along.

20 song albums are overkill, don’t you think? Albums from Demi Lovato, Jimmie Allen, John Legend, Kelsea Ballerini, Little Big Town, Carly Rae Jepsen, Kane Brown, Zach Williams, Meghan Trainor, Taylor Swift and Mitchell Tenpenny have all this year been on the long-ish side (in terms of number of tracks), while Benjamin Hastings is set to release an album of 32 songs. We’ve reviewed some of these albums, and we intend to review the rest (and we are giving these projects the benefit of the doubt as we are connected to and resonate with these artists); but generally, long albums are a problem. There’s an article I read about long albums that I agree with; and in the case of Richard Marx’s Songwriter… perhaps the track list might have flowed better if 5 songs were cut in the middle? Dunno which 5 though, because all of these songs are quite compelling… But no doubt, these melodies are powerful, and some are even resonating. But no one is going to listen to a 20-song album, aside from a long-time fan of the artist. And maybe that’s the point. Richard isn’t going for the younger crowd. He’s recapturing the attention of the fans that loved his music over the years. In that respect though, Songwriter does its job. It’s not flash, and it reminds me of the era of the 90’s. Yet Songwriter is like a warm hug. A warm hug that goes for 80-odd minutes that won’t let go. All jokes aside, perhaps Songwriter would’ve benefitted if it was a double disc, or split into 2 albums of 10? I doubt Richard would have cared either way. No matter… at least Richard is releasing new music once again? Isn’t that all that matters? And by the way, for those of us who live in Australia like myself, who’s going to see Richard in concert next year?

6 songs to listen to: Moscow Calling, Just Go, We Are Not Alone, One Day Longer, We Had It All, Still In My Heart

Score: 4.5/5

RIYL: Michael W. Smith, John Farnham, Chicago, Huey Lewis & The News, Phil Collins, Amy Grant, Air Supply, Cher, Michael Bolton, Bee Gees, Westlife

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