Heartbreak, disco, desperation, and the coast of Cancún: if there were two words that could describe All By His Handsome Self, the latest release from Norwegian singer-songwriter Robert Vendetta, they would be sunshine and heartbreak. Vendetta latest is a bittersweet dive into the memories of a past relationship. An exploration of nostalgia: of what once was, regret of what currently is, and desire of what could’ve been; all through Vendetta’s characteristic retro-pop sound.
Retro pop is a genre invented by Robert Vendetta. It focuses on recapturing the sounds of the ’50s, through the ’80s, inspired by figures like Elvis, Dee Snider, and James Brown, approached by modern production methods. Rock and power ballads abound. But retro pop is not only music, it is also about personality, which Vendetta also has covered.
He has built a name for himself through his rock and roll persona by adopting a larger-than-life figure, in which he elevates his personality up to a hundred. Thus, he adopts this stage persona in albums, music videos, and stage performances, which we can appreciate in full in each of the songs of the album, creating a musical universe in which he bases himself to tell a story of heartbreak.
All By His Handsome Self is a concept album that tells the story of the highs and lows of a relationship, transversing through different emotions: excitement, happiness, hope, disappointment, and sadness. Vendetta allows himself to change genres with each song, from classical music, and love power ballads to tropical disco tunes, each song transforms according to the dominating emotion of the track. “All By My Handsome Self” opens the album with a powerful, bittersweet piano that transmits its overall mood: neither sad nor completly happy.
It serves as an introduction to the instruments that will appear in the album: strings, drums, and, most importantly, an Elton John-like piano which serves as a backing track for the vocals. After a classical music interlude, the tracks “Colombian Spice”, ” Date Me”, “Dance the Night Away” and “In May” center around the excitement of a blooming relationship. Vendetta paints the picture of a couple dancing to disco and then a ballad in the moonlight.
He builds the tropical environment in which the story is set, a beachside resort in Cancún, by expanding his musical arsenal and including a diverse set of percussion instruments in “Colombian Spice” and “In May”: bongos, congas, and marimbas. Vendetta’s vocals are light, charming, and happy, as he allows himself to show a sense of humor that makes him certainly worthy of the title “the Norwegian mariachi”.
A second classical music interlude marks the second part of the album and its mood swing. What was once a happy relationship has concluded in heartbreak. We are left in doubt if what once was will continue, or if it is all over. “Need to Know”, “Call Tonight”, “Over Water”, “If It’s Over” and “Without You” capture the essence of the 80’s heartbreak ballads, similar to those ones by the Australian-English duo Air Supply.
We realize we are no longer in Cancún as the beat slows down and the strings and choir harmonies gain prominence over the percussion. Disco becomes a ballad. The once lively piano becomes an instrument of sorrow, doubt, and resentment, dominating in “Over Water” and “If It’s Over”.
Robert Vendetta goes all out with his vocals as his emotions flow. He shows sadness while never losing his charismatic persona, showing us his own dynamic range when it comes to singing emotion. The album closes with a powerful conclusion that hints a little bit of hope with the more upbeat “Without You”, which rescues the instrumentation of “All By My Handsome Self”, closing the story, themes and music of the album full circle.
All By His Handsome Self includes two additional tracks in its B-side. Robert Vendetta surprises us once again by showing us his self-proclaimed love for Mexico and singing completely in Spanish. “Tú y yo” and “Quiero quedarme contigo” are two love ballads that mirror those sung by Mexican singers Juan Gabriel and José José: two tracks to dance along, hand in hand, with our sweetheart.
All By His Handsome Self is a diverse album that tells a story that is familiar to everyone who has fallen in love, portraying its ups and downs and in-betweens (those disco nights by the beach and those lonely days by ourselves), while always retaining the retro-pop sound that Robert Vendetta has built upon. Bittersweet, as it is the case of love.
Don’t forget to support this project and follow Robert Vendetta on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, SoundCloud, YouTube, and Spotify. You can also check out his official website. For virtual concerts, you can go to songkick “Live from their sofa to yours”.
It also helps to stream and share his music; you can obviously find it in the following Playlists: Less Than 1,000 Followers, Fresh Singles, Indie Only, Chill – Folk – Acoustic, Missing You…, 12 New Songs This Week, and Take It Easy.
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