“Drops of Jupiter” is Train’s second major-label release, and they managed to put away the Sophomore curse quite adeptly. This eleven track opus shows just how far a pop group can deviate from the norm of the genre, and still keep fans enthralled.
The album opens with the catchy number, “She’s On Fire”, a purely pop song that has a catchy hook-filled chorus that will stick in your head. The band’s style is evident from the start, with Pat Monohan’s distinct voice filling your ears, and this track is further proof that the band won’t fall into the trap of one-hit-wonderdom.
From here, it’s straight up, culminating in the pure genius of “Drops of Jupiter”, the title track that borrows stylistically from such artists as Elton John. The piano part on this track is excellent, especially by popular standards, and the lyrics are adeptly written and thought provoking. Monohan’s voice again shines through, bringing grace and a winner’s touch to what has already become a top 40 radio smash hit.
The album falters somewhat with the overly repetitive “It’s About You”, but recovers nicely with “Hopeless”, the only true acoustic track on the album, and in my opinion one of the best songs Train has written. The lyrics are heartfelt, and the accompaniment is stellar, culminating in the best chorus lyric:
“Is anybody waiting at home for you
Cause it’s time that will tell
If it’s heaven, if it’s hell or if it’s
Anybody waiting at home for you
Cause it’s time that will tell this tale”
“Hopeless” is, in my opinion, the pinnacle, and from here on, the album tries to reach the same height but never quite succeeds.
With “Respect”, I feel the band tried too hard to make an anthem. This song appeared on the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack, and was successful because of its chorus “Everybody needs a little respect”, but I don’t think this lived up to Train’s best, falling way short on the lyrics, which I feel are their best asset.
Of the rest of the album, I felt only two of the songs were truly noteworthy. The first was “Let It Roll”, a beautifully written piece of music that for once allows Train’s musical abilities to rise above their lyrics. The message in this song is a serious one, speaking about dealing with personal loss, but the music is so exceptional that it dwarfs Monohan’s lyrics, becoming one of Train’s best musical songs.
The last song of note is the closing track, “Mississippi”, a quietly grooving ballad with a solid bass line, that gently leads the album to a close. This song features one of the best single lines I’ve heard . . . “They call her Mississippi, but she don’t flow to me.” The song speaks of dreams that are out of reach, but that we seem to keep striving for. “She’s the one that makes me fall / Midnight moon shines through it all . . .”
I think that sums up what Train had to do here. Their debut album left them with a lot to live up to. I would imagine that creating a follow-up that could live up to the first and yet still make a new contribution would be difficult, and the pressure to repeat the same style would have been the easy way out. But Train succeeded, creating an album that, for the most part, improves upon the first, while leaving enough room for Train to move and grow.
“Drops of Jupiter” was of the quality that will keep me waiting for a third album, and hoping it will live up to its predecessors.