Sweeter

Gavin DeGraw will never be cool. Like John Mayer and Jason Mraz, he's a nice-looking white dude with music-school chops and mainstream tastes; his songs are too well-made, too catchy, too unapologetically pop-rock to appeal to tastemakers. And what's wrong with that? The 10 songs on Sweeter, DeGraw's fourth album, are taut, efficient and hook-packed, with guitars bolstering the big choruses. DeGraw is an excellent singer, with a hint of grit in his tenor that tips power ballads like "Soldier" toward soul music. He's also an incurable cheeseball: Sweeter's love songs are tinged with cringe-worthy bromides and painful "sexy talk" ("Damn, damn, girl, you do it well, and I thought you were innocent"), and give off an unmistakable whiff of self-regard. Then again, if you could sing and play like DeGraw, you'd be a little full of yourself too.

Listen to "Sweeter":

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From The Archives Issue 1140: September 29, 2011