Chip Tooth Smile

by: Rob Thomas

Rob Thomas opens up Chip Tooth Smile, his fourth solo album, by singing "I'm not afraid of getting older/I'm one less day from dying young." It's not a common sentiment for pop stars, but Rob Thomas isn't a common pop star. Despite the slick reputation he acquired with "Smooth," his blockbuster collaboration with Santana, Thomas has often been concerned with troubling concerns. His gift has been disguising these disquieting moments in a shiny package, usually produced by Matt Serletic. While Thomas continues on this path on Chip Tooth Smile, he parts ways with Serletic for the first time in his 20-year career, opting to work with Butch Walker instead. The change in collaborators does give Thomas a bit of boost, even if it doesn't quite mark a shift in direction. Chip Tooth Smile is filled with stirring power ballads and rousing anthems, songs where Thomas reckons with the worst in him and finds solace in lasting love. With Walker, Thomas relies on bolder colors than he has in the recent past, but there's also an acceptance of the singer/songwriter's middle age; he's not expanding his worldview so much as refining it, attempting to articulate as cleanly and clearly as possible. To that end, Chip Tooth Smile won't win any new fans, but it feels as complete a portrait of Thomas' intent and gifts as possible: his openheartedness is as direct and forceful as the arena-filling anthems they accompany. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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