Wednesday, December 21, 2016

YOUTH ASYLUM-We Are Young Americans (2000)


ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: December 21, 2016

From girls who were 'young boyz' to boys who liked singing about girls—possibly THE single most elusive boyband from my music collection had been the six-piece outfit that collectively called themselves YOUTH ASYLUM. It's become a complete and total mystery as to how I even discovered them, but my past case notes reveal that I'd been hot on their pursuit since at least August 8th, 2011, the earliest known date that I had inquired about them and their first and only known album entitled "We Are Young Americans". Things become even more mysterious when it comes to YOUTH ASYLUM's original background and the whereabouts of the individual members since releasing this twelve-track effort on Quincy Jones's Qwest Records label—indeed, a challenging quest for the skilled cyber-sleuths. Meanwhile, it was finally time for me to do some cyber-sleuthing of my own after all these years! It was back in 2014 when I'd gotten my very first clue that this YOUTH ASYLUM crew would have me and my ears all locked up in pop music bliss; it was listening to their awesome cover of "When I See You Smile" that had made me smile! The 80's 'hair band' lover in me will forever adore the power-ballad original that was a memorable hit by the John Waite-fronted rock troupe, BAD ENGLISH, but this YOUTH ASYLUM remake will be getting a lot of love from me too! Playing it again for myself, now with their complete album at my disposal, feels extra special, the boys' sublime vocal harmony and their tender voices perfectly matching up against the silky-smooth slow groove. I was reminded once more (well, twice more, and that number is sure to increase!) how "When I See You Smile" has some of the simplest song lyrics you'll ever hear, but lyrics that are so moving. 'Sometimes I want to give up, I want to give in'—my favorite line right before the big hook slams down with my favorite words from the chorus being 'I see a ray of light' (love it how their voices rise up when delivering that particular line) and 'I can face the world'. Not taking anything away from John Waite and company, whose original surely touched a multitude of fans, but surely this YOUTH ASYLUM remake worked like magic in charming the hearts of all the young girls—in America and beyond! I could rave about this remade 80's hit for an eternity, but there are other areas inside this musical YOUTH ASYLUM that I must give props to! The opening anthem, " How We Comin' ", formally introduces you to the voices of Derek, Donnell, Jason, Kevin and Leo—plus the rapper/MC of the bunch who calls himself Flashlight—while also giving you the real lowdown on what these boys are all about. They're not just boys playing with toys, and they're taking hip-hop and adding a little pop to it. But not only that—they relay how they differentiate themselves from the other popular boybands, if their references to both NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK and HANSON are any indication. That 'boyband name-dropping' scheme is employed a second time on "Body Rock"—they reference both N*SYNC and BACKSTREET BOYS—which is one of the jams on this album whose bangin' beats are especially designed to get the body moving. Those other jams would be "Flashbacks", where they mix in some good hard rock with the pop for added thrills, and "Put Your Hands Up" which, in essence, serves as another one of their signature anthems, as they continuously refer to themselves as 'Y.A.' all throughout, and as they do again on the other cool dance/pop cut called "One Choice". Thinking further about anthems and such, the boys do a respectful tribute to the American nationality—and to peoples of all nations, in fact—with the inspirational gem, "It'll Be Right". Following their spoken introductory "Pledge of Allegiance", the song takes off with an infectious r&b rhythm and their meaningful words of promoting change and betterment for all mankind. The song just takes hold of your emotions and keeps you captive for the entire duration, blossoming into quite the show-stopping performance that peaks with the powerful rap break midway through and the soulful voices of the backing choir in the epic final movements; they couldn't have orchestrated a finer masterpiece! Or could they? The concluding piece, "Little Johnny", is on the exact same wavelength as "It'll Be Alright" in terms of the inspirational and powerful message embedded in the lyrics. Hearing them tell the touching story about a young boy who will create a brighter future someday nearly induces tears when the speech about past tragedies of fallen children due to gun violence is delivered midway through. Yet there are much happier places inside this YOUTH ASYLUM to make you smile. There's the sunny summertime ride song about the girl named "Jasmin"; the beautiful piece that attempts to answer one of life's most difficult questions, "What Is Love?" (so lovely how their collective voices smooth over the words in the chorus; it reminded me, in some way, of how Steve Wonder is singing on his memorable "Ribbon In The Sky"); and the marvelously mature and captivating "Color Everywhere", where I noted how their colorful romantic confessions of the girl putting the blue in the sky and the red back in the rose, plus being their silver lining, just so happen to complement the three colors of the American flag:

1. How We Comin'
2. Jasmine
3. Color Everywhere
4. Flashbacks
5. It'll Be Alright
6. What Is Love?
7. Color Blind
8. Put Your Hands Up
9. One Choice
10. When I See You Smile
11. Body Rock (feat. Y.A. MC's)
12. Little Johnny

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