The problem that I have with contemporary pop music isn’t with the musicians behind its creation nor is it even with the commercial big labels that are responsible for making it as visible as it is. My problem is exclusively with the lyrical self-centeredness of the modern popstar. In the last twenty years or so, we’ve steadily seen pop become more and more egocentric as we’ve inched closer to present day. While there’s plenty of value in writing music that centers on personal experiences, making every shred of material about how the world effects one person and one person alone isn’t just insular, it’s downright removed from the mainstream social consciousness (regardless of what Rolling Stone might tell you). Enter Hugh James, a humble Californian singer/songwriter whose new single “My Brother’s Shoes” is as personal a song as they come, but it doesn’t celebrate the virtues of being alone in this life. Instead it highlights the importance of being your brother’s keeper, being a responsible member of society who cares for others who have fallen on hard times, and giving all of yourself over to something when you have faith in a higher power that is made up of love, understanding and respect for all life.
Hugh James’ video for “My Brother’s Shoes” is a much more stripped down and abrasively produced affair than the single that it takes its music from, but it’s surprisingly fitting for the caliber of content being discussed in the song. Grainy home videos are intercut with more professionally shot sequences of James and the vocal group G3 performing the song in the studio, and while it isn’t exactly the most original concept that I’ve seen in a visual piece, it still craters the emotions of anyone with a half a heart to share. It’s easier than it’s ever been for artists at every stage of their careers to make a music video that is on par with pop’s most well-bankrolled performers, and though I wouldn’t say that Hugh James went out of his way to make a particularly profound video to accompany “My Brother’s Shoes,” he certainly made something that suits its earthy, honest subject matter.
It’s a little overzealously polished for some tastes, but overall Hugh James has delivered another slick melody in “My Brother’s Shoes” that promises to satisfy his ever-expanding fan base as he looks to enter the 2020s on a high note. There aren’t a lot of artists like James anymore, and by that, I mean there isn’t a plethora of performers and composers who are willing to get as vulnerable and intimate with us in a single as he so obviously is in this song. There’s no evidence that his creative abilities are slowing down in the least, and I think that “My Brother’s Shoes” speaks volumes about how much he’s matured as an artist in the last decade. The end is nowhere in sight for Hugh James, and I look forward to hearing more of this man’s sterling songcraft in the years to come.