Second runner-up on season 5 of NBC’s The Voice Will Champlin is the first of the top three to release an album, and Borrowing Trouble exceeds any expectations that anyone may have had for a contestant who was stolen twice and needed the coach to save him at the beginning of the live rounds. With a successful career in songwriting (he won a Grammy in 2010) and the help of Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine coaching him through his journey, Champlin has released a commendable breakout album (he has two pre-Voice works) that deserves to to be recognized as more than a pop-rock album from a reality singing competition show.
The album starts off with the attention-grabbing current single “Eye of the Pyramid” (which I will get into later) followed by the country-rock-meets-Bollywood fusion title track. The next few tracks (“While You’re Young”, “Last Man Standing” and “Freezing Time”) are very much generic attempts at a radio-friendly pop-rock song, which causes them to be less memorable than the remainder of the album.
After the three weak link tracks, the songs only grow in genre-bending instrumentation and vocal ability. “One Shot” is a funk and blues-infused bar anthem you can dance to but is still far away from the cookie-cut pop-rock that you would assume his style to be, while “No Fair Game” dances around classic rock-style guitar riffs and harmonies. “Wasteland” is a pure-voiced song about an ongoing journey (most likely about his own personal musical journey) and it’s ironically followed by the sexiest song on the album, “Heat of Passion”. The emotional and piano-focused “Breathe” wraps up the album.
Almost all of the songs on Borrowed Trouble – minus two or three – are easy contenders for spotlight tracks and narrowing them down to the three that will be mentioned was a difficult process. “Eye of the Pyramid”, “Surgical Rewind” and “Diamond in the Fire” are all instrumentally and lyrically stimulating, and in each one Champlin showcases his impressive vocal versatility.
“Eye of the Pyramid” absolutely proves that he wants to be taken seriously as an artist. He plays around with his vocals in a way that gives the listener the idea to adapt to any style of music that’s thrown at him without being showoff-y. Hard drums with rhythmic guitars and a hint of organs give this anti-consumerism track an Imagine Dragons kind of feel to it while his voice almost takes the place of the guitars, acapella style. I wouldn’t be surpassed if this song gets featured in some big action flick.
“Surgical Rewind” is a contender because the fact that Champlin can practically match his Voice coach’s high range at each chorus is pretty damn impressive. There’s not a doubt in my mind that this particular track, with its Awolnation-esque quirk to its music, will become a future radio hit. “Diamond in the Fire” is another epically instrumented track that blends electric guitars and keyboards with strong drums and slight horns and strings without feeling musically cluttered. He goes reggae for a small moment, but then his voice reaches skyrocketing heights at the very end.
Honestly, I had low expectations for Borrowing Trouble purely based on his first released single “Last Man Standing” – it wasn’t necessarily the strongest track to start off your new career with. But the entire album proved to me, and probably other skeptics, that Will Champlin will dip his feet into pretty much any type of song and is willing to push his vocal talent to out-of-this-world heights. While it’s a shame it took him this long to finally get somewhere, this album is the product of years and years of never giving up. I can definitely see him reuniting with his coach Adam Levine on a tour in the very near future (#WillAndAdamDuet). An overall diamond in the rough that shouldn’t be looked over.