February 3, 2020 Richard Marx – Limitless (Album Review)
Every child of the ‘80s and ‘90s is apt to know the name Richard Marx. Synonymous with heartfelt, passionate crooning and beautiful piano work, the singer-songwriter won our hearts with the likes of “Right Here Waiting,” “Now and Forever,” “Hazard,” and “Dance with My Father.” Now the Grammy Award winner is set to return with his eleventh studio album, Limitless, on Friday, February 7th, 2020, via BMG.
Let’s face it, wherever you’ve gone, no matter what you’ve done, Marx’s timeless music has always been right here waiting for you. After establishing himself as a talented songwriter for other artists, he made his eponymous debut in 1987, and the singer-songwriter, musician and producer has been consistently delivering catchy and heartfelt Pop Rock/Adult Contemporary tunes for the past three decades since. From 1989’s Repeat Offender to 2008’s Emotional Remains to 2014’s Beautiful Goodbye, the dedicated philanthropist continued to craft his own material while collaborating with some of the best and brightest across genres, including Josh Groban and Keith Urban.
For Marx’s impressive eleventh LP (if you count 2012’s Christmas Spirit in your total), the 11-song Limitless, the exceptional storyteller—who has topped the charts in four different decades—offers up an anthology of then and now. Full of electronic embellishments that could easily grace the latest Taylor Swift offering, Limitless provides a multi-faceted approach to its songwriting, crossing genres fluidly as the songbird wears his heart eternally upon his sleeve. But don’t fear, this is not an identity crisis: this is a timeless soul embracing his future without boundaries.
Limitless opens to delicate electronics that blanket the sonic landscape as Marx’s flawless vocals brush across the canvas of the catchy, radio-ready “Another One Down,” a track that was “joyfully” co-written with his son Lucas. Glowing like the golden sands of the California coast, abundant with positivity and love, the titular “Limitless” utilizes today’s Top 40 electronic accoutrements as a backbone for this artist’s ageless craft. The end result is a triumphant blend of classic lyrical content and a fully modern feel, a sound that, much like its namesake, is without limitations.
Fat bass and a sultry stomp lead into “Love Affair That Lasts Forever,” an intimate encounter with Marx’s stellar vocals as he unabashedly begs The One for more. Next, co-written with wife Daisy Fuentes (yes, the stunning former MTV VJ) and co-produced by Marx and deadmau5 (Morgan Page), certified earworm “Let Go” begins with acoustics and piano before building into a steady step full of heavily-layered textures. In this, our songbird delivers his sweetness over a multitude of sounds that coalesce into something that we’ll call Pop, but it’s so much more. Dance, sing, love, and learn to let go, for every door that closes opens us to new opportunities.
The 1980s decide to flash their neon spandex in “All Along.” A track that will easily harken Marx’s elder audience members to his humble beginnings, the electronic beat is there but it never overpowers the nostalgic vibes that are thick throughout. Serving as a delicious reminder of where this storyteller began his journey, the bold infectiousness continues into the quasi-Country “Up All Night.” Meanwhile, those good time Rock-n-Roll vibes encourage you to tap your toe to “Front Row Seat.”
A beautiful duet with actress and Country siren Jana Kramer, “Strong Enough” takes the quasi-Country vibes of “Up All Night” but turns them into a twinkling ballad that could easily top the charts for the pair. Continuing with another piano ballad, Marx’s vocals are placed in the spotlight for the personal confession and poignant reminiscences of the show-stopping “Not In Love.”
As Limitless winds to a close, the electronic embellishments return to provide the musical core of “Break My Heart Tonight.” Poetry in motion, spinning ‘round and ‘round, the catchy Pop Rocker will get your head bopping once more before the album reaches its grand finale. But don’t expect to dance your way into the sunset: Marx ends on a subtle acoustic note with the delicate yet unfortunate love of “This One.”
Still wearing his tender heart on his sleeve, offering candid confessions and heartfelt tales of love lost and love found, on Limitless, Marx paints a beautiful tapestry that defies the status quo by crossing genres and utilizing modern electronics to boost his already impressive performance. Rather than hiding behind these additions, the singer-songwriter delicately layers his new music with sounds that will appeal to the Top 40 crowd, as well as those wistful for older times, allowing Limitless to bridge the gap between then and now beautifully.
In short, Marx truly finds himself within his newfound freedom. Thus, no matter your preferred style, Limitless is full of beautifully poignant songs whose sincerity cannot be denied. For this, Cryptic Rock give Limitless 5 of 5 stars.