The album "Changes," by Germany's ESC hopeful Roman Lob, offers 13 songs of pristine production. Lob proves himself to be a talented singer, and the songs are nice, but there's just something missing.
German hip-hop artist and casting show juror Thomas D. said it again and again: His job wasn't just to head the jury that selects Germany's 2012 Eurovision candidate. He also planned to produce an album with the winner. So, for him, the decision was serious. The winner could look forward not just to a performace at Eurovision, but also to the start of a career.
Now, that first step in a career has been taken, with Roman Lob's album "Changes" just finished.
Belting it out
It was from his grandfather, a church organist in Lob's hometown of Neustadt Wied, that the Eurovision hopeful learned to play a few things on the piano when he was a kid. After piano came the drums, and eventually he discovered his voice singing in a school choir.
His singing is warm, friendly and full of feeling, but he can also belt things out with impressive power and great intonation. During the casting rounds for TV show "Unser Star für Baku" (Our Star for Baku), which selected this year's Eurovision competitor for Germany, Roman Lob was never an outsider or the one with room for improvement.
The young talent's takes on the songs he sang were always spot on, with just the right emotion. It's his authenticity that won him the show's title.
Third time's the charm
Lob tried for years to land a performance on a national casting show. At 16, he made it into the top 20 on "Deutschland sucht den Superstar," another popular TV talent show in Germay. But he was unable to compete due to laryngitis. He decided not to take a free ticket to perform in the next edition of the series, choosing instead to focus on his training as an industrial mechanic.
Music remained a hobby, with Lob singing in various bands. But he found he could not part with his dream of stardom. In 2008, he competed for a place in the casting rounds for Eurovision, but did not make the cut.
With the era when artists would hole up inside a studio for months to churn out a pop album long over, it took Lob just a few weeks after his casting show win at Thomas D.'s studio in western Germany to put together a completely unobjectionable pop album. One thing is clear: The intent is to appeal to as broad a spectrum of listeners as possible.
There is no question that the album sounds professional and well-crafted, letting Roman Lob's voice easily conquer the repertoire. But there's something missing. Maybe it's the great melody that you can't get out of your head afterward, or maybe it's the lack of risk-taking that would make the songs stand out a bit from the average pop tune.
Just getting things right is not the stuff of great music - and perhaps the mere four weeks of production are to blame, even if today's studios make the whole process much easier than it once was.
In Lena's shadow
Compared with Germany's last Eurovision winner in 2010, Lena Meyer-Landrut, Roman Lob has more musical talent. There is no doubt that he can sing, and he has shown a knack for winning over audiences with his interpretations. He's the nice boy-next-door, always on the up-and-up with a humble air. His goal seems to be more of creating a home for his future kids than enjoying a life in the spotlight.
His song "Standing Still," co-written by the successful pop-jazz fusion artist Jamie Collum, could take Lob to the top third of the pack in Baku at the Eurovision Song Contest at the end of the month. But there's good reason to doubt that the singer will be able to charm the whole continent.
His album "Changes" has made slow progress in climbing the charts, and Lob himself has said, "Even if it doesn't work out in Baku, you have to be able to say: It's fine, life goes on."
Author: Matthias Klaus / gsw
Editor: Louisa Schaefer