Confession time! I'm a sucker for 2000s music that didn't perform well in the Billboard Hot 100. Now that the anvil has been dropped on the heads of those who swear by Ariana Grande and Billie Eilish, I swear to you that I can get down to just about any song that you like, too! However, when it comes to personal preference, the songs I have completely memorized were released by boy band members attempting to have a solo career (take Jordan Knight, JC Chasez, Nick Carter, and obviously Nick Lachey).
There's a common theme of this genre that I enjoy particularly, which is the essential rejection of the traditional late 90s and early 2000s hyper pop and manufactured sound that many of these artists were subjected to conforming to during their boy band days. With these albums, they tended to utilize more live instruments, touchier lyric substance, and deeper overall album themes. This is severely the case for What's Left of Me by Nick Lachey. Nick released this post-divorce with Jessica Simpson which makes the most sense. Track by track, the project feels like pages of a personal journal put to music.
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1. What's Left of Me
The album opens up with a reflective track that quickly assures the listener of the tone of the album. Thanks to the more serious cover art, you can assume right away that this isn't going to be one to press shuffle on at a party. A notable lyric reads "Now I'm broken, and I'm faded, I'm half the man I thought I would be. But you can have what's left of me." You can sense the yearning and acceptance of a rough patch in his life, which is such a complex and thoughtful means for a song on this album.
2. I Can't Hate You Anymore
"I Can't Hate You Anymore" revolves around the hardships of knowing someone has broken you. Once again, Lachey used the theme of heartbreak, but this time instead he recognizes how quick he is to forgive someone that hurt him. "You're not the person that you used to be, the one I want who wanted me, and that's a shame." This song is pretty hard to listen to because of how personal it can be taken. He acknowledges how much effort he put in the relationship for it to crash and burn, yet feels the pain of wanting that person in his life still.
3. On Your Own
With this song, Nick Lachey offers his commitment to someone who is struggling. This takes a slight turn from the original theme of feeling lonely himself and instead shows that he wants to be a light in somebody's life now. I particularly enjoy how that narrative strengthens his image.
4. Outside Looking In
"But I feel my world coming back to life, my eyes are finally open again." The lyric that stands out most to me musically appears in the first part of the chorus. I find that this song shows how Lachey is thankful for a brand new perspective on a bad situation or difficult part of his life.
5. Shades of Blue
This song is comparable to the first two tracks in the sense that it outlines and highlights the worst parts of a breakup, or in his case, a divorce. It's comparing the darkness of being in this state to being buried in the shadows and being forgotten. "Why did you have to leave," Lachey wistfully sings in the bridge.
Every album these days has its token love song, and "Beautiful" is just that for this album. It's a reassuring and loving song to someone who may be insecure. I think that Nick choosing to include this on his release provided a great devotional song.
7. Everywhere But Here
I tend to gravitate to songs like this one. It draws out very concrete memories that aren't meant for anybody to relate to in specific, such as meeting someone at a diner while it's raining on a Monday. However, it's the very fact that these types of memories are so accessible to somebody who is missing a love interest that is relatable.
8. I Do It for You
"I Do It for You" shows the many sacrifices that Nick might have made for his relationship and basically states that he walked on eggshells and jumped through hoops for that person. It shows the frustration that he feels that the other person isn't willing to do the same for him.
9. Run to Me
Much like "On Your Own," he voices how the person he is singing to can depend on him despite any hardships or doubts. I love the tone of how he offers out the fact that he has dealt with the same issues that he sees the love interest dealing with.
As the album progresses to its close, I found that the songs became more optimistic about the future. The reason I choose to listen to this song out of the blue the most often is because the notes he hits are very pleasing. I think the bridge of this song in specific hits differently, and I would love to personally have this play in my head during every good moment of my life.
11. You're Not Alone
I'm not going to spend much time on this song because it once again uses the fact that he can help someone get through hardships and be loyal to them.
I've listened to both versions of this song, the original which is a slower-paced song, and the full band version. There's something riveting about getting used to the feel of a beloved song and then getting to discover a second version that tweaks the original to be even more beautiful.
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