Un' Altra Direzione

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The most remarkable thing about Un'altra Direzione is how it manages to come across as a very convincing record while being an utterly hackneyed affair. This is European soft rock at its most predictable -- heartfelt singing, strings, some guitar solos in the breaks, and production so polished it's almost possible to see one's reflection in the music. The sound has been done to death by countless performers, including at least one superstar -- obviously, Eros Ramazzotti. But the template can still be catchy and convincing in the right hands, and Nek, who is ten records into his career, knows just how to handle the music, enthralling the listener like a skilled playboy whose tricks his target can see through, but still finds hard to resist. For one, the music is simply energetic enough -- the guitars may not be big enough for classic power pop, but, on tunes like "Semplici Emozioni," they are used to lead the songs, not just underscore the sappy piano-based choruses through feeble background buzz. Think Bryan Adams, and in the best parts, maybe even a dash of Goo Goo Dolls. This is not to say there is nothing sappy on the record: Un'altra Direzione packs copious amounts of minor-key melodies to create the romantic mood that Italian pop is primarily known for, with a twist of an innocently sleazy nighttime melodrama that is prime Ramazzotti. But Nek is clever enough to never overdo the dramatizing, and packs the tunes with enough simple but effective hooks to give the album the charm of a guilty pleasure done right.

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