There is no major-label battle quite so perplexing as one involving a mainstream artist. Such is the case with Jon McLaughlin, a likeable pop singer/songwriter who had some success on a major at the tail-end of the aughts then wound up quarreling with his label about who should produce his third album. Eventually, he split with the major and made Forever If Ever on his own, and the record in no way sounds like the kind of album that would scare off a major: it’s a tuneful, colorful, commercial pop record, the kind that seems tailor-made for multi-platform hits. The thing that marks this as an independent effort is that the surfaces aren’t quite so slick, there’s some warmth to the interplay, and the melodies are pushed to the forefront, letting the song, not the singer, shine. Although there are some slow spots -- he can drag on ballads -- this remains the loosest and liveliest McLaughlin has ever been on record, which means it’s not only his best effort yet, it’s his most appealing. Lord knows why it wasn’t on a major, as it feels like it has more potential hits than his other albums.