The Ruben – “Your Name (Karma)”

 The Ruben – “Your Name (Karma)”

The Ruben – “Your Name (Karma)” – Single Review

Well, on the one hand, I think you’ve gotta appreciate the fact that every time you push play on a new track from The Ruben, you never really know what you’re going to get.  While there’s no doubt that level of unpredictability can work both for and against the music we choose to make or listen to, I’d still be on the side of advocating on behalf of artists like this dude out of Tromsø Norway, that are at least trying different things to see what might work.  He’s got a fair amount of experience under his belt at this point with music that has been released online professionally that dates back thirteen years, yet it’s fair to say that The Ruben is on the early side of the spectrum of his career overall.  Essentially, he’s already accomplished a whole lot, but he’s got more future in front of him than he has past behind him, you know what I mean?  So heck yeah…youth is all about experimentation and finding out what works.

Every experience I’ve had with The Ruben and his music has proven that he’s proud to be a perpetual student of the game.  He tries, he learns, he adjusts, he adapts…he’s got a fantastic attitude and overall perspective that’ll always guide him forward in some way, shape, or form.  While that isn’t necessarily going to translate directly to hit after hit, art & music isn’t supposed to be like that anyhow.  I was actually just watching a clip the other day of the mighty Rick Rubin who was philosophizing on what makes great music, and he basically said (I’m paraphrasing here for sure…) that if everyone likes your stuff, you haven’t gone far enough with it…and I couldn’t agree more.  Music & art should be polarizing; it should be debated and discussed…and if it’s not, in my opinion, that’s when you’ve got a real problem.

So pass or fail in the court of public opinion, never sweat it…it simply means you’re on the right path.

I’ll be honest with ya, The Ruben can be genuinely perplexing at times.  I listen to a track like “Your Name (Karma)” and one of my first thoughts is that he could have made this so much less complex and complicated on himself if he had wanted to.  The vocal hook is pretty decent when it comes right down to it, but you’ll hear how it’s juxtaposed against the music and how it creates a bit of an audible obstacle in between his idea and what you’d likely consider to be an easy listening experience.  You get your clearest glimpse of it all in the first forty-five seconds or so, and then I suppose it’s fair to say that those same hooks could potentially become more cluttered and cloudy than a majority of listeners could be prepared for.  That’s the risk of taking chances with your art, and I don’t think The Ruben is any stranger to that concept – he knows when he’s doing something new that people will have all kinds of reactions to it, and I believe he’s ready for that.  You can still hear the effort is being made here – heck, if anything, I suppose that’s what I’m saying – maybe he’s doing too much when he could get away with doing a whole lot less, you know what I mean?  I feel like the ideas he’s got with his vocals are a serious contrast with the music that eventually comes into play…and again, if you’re listening to the core of the vocal melody, you know it would have been a lot less work to take this song in a much plainer direction.

Don’t get me wrong, I applaud the attempt to do something new, regardless of whether or not it works out.  For some out there, of course they’ll find something to dig about the kind of uniqueness that a song like “Your Name (Karma)” has – there are numerous positives to be found.  The mix and production are really well done, the lyricism is completely solid, the vocal melody/pattern is effective – and in general, The Ruben’s artistic fearlessness is always something that we can collectively admire.  On the other side of the coin, I do think he’s probably pushed this track a little too far into the abstract with the way the music works in behind his vocals, I think he’s likely sung this song in a highly polarizing way that’ll elicit all kinds of different opinions, and I might argue that he’s left one of the biggest parts of the potential in this song on the table more than perhaps he should have.

As far as the abstraction is concerned, I think that’s fairly straightforward – he’s taken what could easily be a normal Pop song and decided to take “Your Name (Karma)” in a much more artistic direction – I’m cool with that ultimately, though I do recognize that it can create a barrier in between a song and its potential listeners.  I really do feel like he’s got solid hooks at the root of this song whether it’s the verses or the chorus that you’ll looking at under the microscope, but admittedly, he’s taking a whole series of chances by singing this song the way that he does.  The Ruben – “You played a dangerous game”, and I reckon the people out there will eventually play a role as judge & jury of the decisions that have been made here in due time…I’m not saying that it won’t work for listeners tuning in, but I am saying that he has given this Pop song a much more challenging design in terms of its universal accessibility.  He’s got moments of clarity in “Your Name (Karma)” that sound fantastic and give us a clear glimpse of his vocals that seem like a natural fit for a song like this – and he’s got other spots where that easy listening accessibility listeners tend to crave gets clouded by the multiple layers of vocals add in & the oddly artistic design of the music surrounding him.  I’ll be real with ya and tell ya that this song does have moments where you wonder if The Ruben just rolled out of bed and decided to start singing it with a mix of whispered and hushed tones that sound like he’s just woken up – it’s hard to say that he’s rockin’ the mic with the kind of melody & clarity people generally respond to.  Like, when you listen to the piano notes that ring out in the background of this song, you kind of start to wonder if the accessibility in a single like “Your Name (Karma)” might have gone up if The Ruben leaned harder into minimalism as opposed to being as busy as he sounds with the music.  On a creative level though, going in a more sparse direction might not have been nearly as much fun for The Ruben – and regardless of what anyone thinks of the final results, it’s still vitally crucial to love the process…that’s where the fun resides, and the joys of discovery are found…so believe me, I get it…just going with the piano on its own wouldn’t have likely been satisfying enough to the man behind the music.  I think the most surprising element of “Your Name (Karma)” occurs just prior to the two minute mark…from about 1:45 to 2:00 in this song, The Ruben reveals an absolutely spellbinding moment which could have easily gone on to be this single’s main hook if he had chosen to approach this differently.  As it stands, he’s relying heavily on the vocal hooks to carry the weight here…that’s the most tangible aspect that the everyday listeners out there will be able to hang onto, while there’s a good chance quite a bit of the rest could fly right over their heads.  Anyhow…he’s put the work in, he’s tried something interesting and new, and I salute that – the court of public opinion will render its verdict like it always does…there’s never been a short supply of that on the internet as far as I can tell – and from there, he’ll learn, adapt, adjust, and keep on moving forward with his music.  The Ruben will always keep you guessing as to what comes next, and in the long run, our curiosity becomes his advantage – we’ll keep on tuning in to hear what he’s come up with next.

Find out more about The Ruben at his official page at Instagram:

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