Let’s meditate on pop stardom. Daryl Hall & John Oates have had a long run of hits, starting in 1976. After a brief hiatus, they reunited in ’88 for Ooh Yeah!, an album not quite as successful as many from their past. There’s no reason to think this new one, Change of Season, won’t do at least moderately well — and yet there’s absolutely nothing distinctive about it.
The songs are expertly written and produced; chalk that up to basic good taste and years of experience. The blend of styles — Hall & Oates are famous for mixing rock with blue-eyed R&B — is as smooth as ever, extending even to an engaging hint of country music in a song called ”Starting All Over Again.” The tunes go down easily, and the adult view of romance found in the lyrics is admirable.
Then there’s the singing. These guys are stars. And yet it would be difficult, if not impossible, to close your eyes and pick out their voices in a crowd. Their sound is refined but generic, distinctive only for a touch here and there of patently forced emotion. Try to listen to the whole album, and very likely you’ll find your mind wandering.
Encounter any single song on the radio, though, and its instant familiarity will make you warmly comfortable. And that’s the moral here. This album is, to use a favorite word in the music business, ”product.” Daryl Hall and John Oates aren’t distinct musical pesonalities; they’re owners of what by now has become a reliable brand name. They’re Hall & Oates, guaranteed hitmakers. For imagination, excitement, or just plain musical freshness, you’d better look elsewhere. C