‘Good Thing’ offers listeners emotional experience

Photo courtesy of Columbia Records

Leon Bridges’ freshly released album “Good Thing” sets itself apart from the social and political distractions of the contemporary music scene by humbly appealing to the emotional perspective of the listener.

There are no references to tweets from the POTUS or political agendas influencing “Good Thing” — just pure, modest soul and R&B with a touch of 1960s flare. Going from washing dishes in a Fort Worth restaurant between open-mic nights to playing sold out shows as a Grammy-nominee in just four short years has been no trouble for Bridges, and “Good Thing” stands as a testament to his growth and maturity as an artist.

When describing Good Thing as an emotional appeal, one must clarify.  Every song is an emotional appeal in one way or another.  Music would be nothing without said appeal. Different genres act to enhance particular moments–the right music pairing for the right setting, in a way not dissimilar to the perfect wine pairing for a cheese, makes a moment that much more memorable.

By that definition, Good Thing is an acquired taste.  The album is not something the listener would play as crowd-pleasing music.

“Good Thing” is best interpreted as a soundtrack to a series of experiences. Throughout the album, the listener might imagine working a long, productive day, with the promise of meeting an old friend for dinner that evening.  Work that day is a bit anxious; tedious, but not exhausting.

Over a plate of Southern comfort food after work, the old friend, someone the listener cared dearly for in his college days, tells him of her successes and failures.  She has overcome some unexpected hardship to emerge comfortable with a well-paying job, beautiful home and good social life.  Perhaps with an old, fat dog for good measure.  Nonetheless, something in her voice tells the listener that she’s not complete.

On the way home, Good Thing queues on the radio.  It opens with “Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand.”  Sentimental lyrics suggest a departure; the swinging, upbeat nature of the track implies that the separation is troubling but necessary.  A mystical outro, featuring almost fairytale-like use of a xylophone, promises a healthy, but unknown, future.

“Bad Bad News” is next.  Like the track before , it reminds the listener of his time with his friend as a child.  Life was rhythmic, much like the base line.  This head-bobbing trend continues throughout “Sky” and “If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)” reminding the listener of the mischief he enjoyed with his old friend as a teen.

As the drive home nears the end, the listener skip to the end of the album.  The songs in the middle section of Good Thing, particularly “Beyond,” “Forgive You,” and “If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)” are all somewhat similar, anyway.

The lyrics of the next song, “Mrs.,” bring the listener’s mind back to his relationship with his friend.  Once strong, now separated but still emotionally familiar.  “Mrs.” is the most wistful of Bridges’ tracks.

The final song in Good Thing, “Georgia to Texas,” tells the tale of Bridges’ move from one state to the other and the hardship it brought him.  As the listener pulls into his driveway, he thinks of what has been lost between he and his friend, and what could become of their relationship yet.

Much like the early, immature stages of life, parts of “Good Thing” can be criticized.  The triangle in “If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)” is prevalent enough to be annoying, and the similarity between some of the middle tracks is perhaps a bit excessive.  Nonetheless, if listened from start to finish, Good Thing tells a tale in such a strong and convincing manner that it’s hard to deny that it possesses something powerful and intangible that contemporary chart-toppers generally do not.