Considering how unexpected A Great Big World's breakthrough success with the wrenching ballad "Say Something" has been, it seems only fitting that the duo's debut "Is There Anybody Out There?" (Epic) is filled with even more surprises.
Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino, who teamed up when they were both at NYU, shot to the top of the pop charts after they memorably performed "Say Something" with Christina Aguilera on "The Voice," the raw breakup song becoming even more poignant as a duet between Axel and Aguilera.
However, those looking to place A Great Big World into a small, acoustic balladeer box will be shocked by how eclectic "Is There Anybody Out There?" is musically and lyrically.
The opening piano-driven blast of "Rockstar" and "Land of Opportunity" sounds influenced by Ben Folds Five with a bit of ELO thrown in, as does "I Really Want It." When the band strips back the production on "Already Home" and "You'll Be OK," the earnestness is reminiscent of fun.'s "Some Nights," but their far-flung inspirations stretch much further, as "Shorty Don't Wait" combines country and gospel. "Cheer Up!" sounds like it came from a children's album, while the anthem of acceptance "Everyone Is Gay" sounds like it belongs in a Broadway musical.
How this all fits together is probably a mystery to everyone but A Great Big World, but they approach it with such passion and joyfulness on "Is There Anyone Out There?" that you end up going along for the wild ride and enjoying it.
A GREAT BIG WORLD
"Is There Anybody Out There?"
BOTTOM LINE The "Say Something" duo reveal pop surprises.