by: R5

The fresh-faced kids in R5 quite obviously have their sights set on picking off some of One Direction's fan base. Any discerning 11-year-old should be able to take one listen to the group's debut and hear the similarities. The question then becomes do they have what it takes to measure up to the mighty OneD? The four Lynch siblings (including lead vocalist Ross, who is best known for playing Austin on Disney's Austin & Aly, and Riker, who has a role on Glee) and the impossibly named Ellington Ratliff certainly give it their best shot and in the end, come very close. Working with producers Emanuel Kiriakou and Andrew Goldstein, the band's sound is very modern and reliant on all kinds of contemporary tricks, ending up being streamlined, light, and built for singing along into a hairbrush. Ross' lead vocals are sweet and unassuming, but still strong enough to put over the simple melodies. The rest of the group provides pillow-soft backing vocals; Riker's vocals are a nice contrast, and the lone female in the clan, Rydel, has a vocal feature (the cheerleader hip-hop jammer "Love Me Like That") that's a nicely sassy interlude. Like OneD, R5 keep the syrupy ballads to the bare minimum (really, only "One Last Dance" qualifies) and focus instead on lively love songs and pleading, midtempo tracks, both of which have plenty of hooks. The hit single "Loud" is probably the best song, but "Pass Me By" comes close. Either one would fit perfectly on a OneD record, and may even be a highlight. The rest of Louder works too, thanks to the innocent energy of the group, the production skills of Kiriakou and Goldstein, the songwriting of the entire team, and the overall sense that this isn't just some rip-off of OneD, but rather a semi-organic band with some real skills. If you want to risk the wrath of everyone over 14 and call OneD the modern pop Beatles, then R5 would be Hermans' Hermits. Or maybe the Monkees, considering that they're American and appear on TV. Regardless of any and all comparisons modern or ancient, R5's debut album is a strong, uncluttered and fun modern pop confection and that's all that really matters. ~ Tim Sendra

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