Toronto pop artist Diamond Rings (John O’Regan) picked up part of his act from the school of Gaga, but only the aesthetic portion.
The artist prepares listeners to hit the dance floor with his gaudy makeup and outfits, but when the music starts on his debut album, “Special Affections,” he corrects their presumptions immediately.
The opening track on the album, “Play by Heart,” is a slow song that follows a lingering synthesizer melody. O’Regan’s voice also defies the image he presents (or at least defies the stereotypes I applied when I saw his makeup). He sings in a deep baritone that suits his pace. “Play by Heart” sounds much like Phil Collins during the years of “In the Air Tonight.”
The rest of the album is more upbeat when it comes to musical approach, but at no point does O’Regan go for a full-on dance-pop approach. The artist uses instruments that one might associate with dancing, such as computer-produced percussion and handclap beats, but he uses them in a way that does not distract from his intelligent and emotionally honest lyrics.
The tracks might not inspire dancing, but they aren’t downers either. “On Our Own” and “You & Me” feature piano lines that are subtle yet fun. The album starts off slow but builds its tempo modestly, climaxing with one of the album’s best tunes, “All Yr Songs.”
“All Yr Songs” answers any questions that the listener might have had after the first nine tracks about the overall emotion of the album. O’Regan’s tone wavers temporarily into the realms of sadness and happiness during the album but allows the latter to pour out in the final track, allowing listeners to finally break into the dance that they had been holding in all along.