Independent pop artist Arden, based out of London, recently released his debut album Meraki. The album title, meaning to “put one’s soul into his work”, is an interesting one, matching the passion that was put into it. For an artist to make such a declarative statement in their work, I needed to take a deep dive and hear it for myself.

Musically, Meraki is a very straightforward album and sounds as it was advertised. Arden makes use of what we typically associate with a pop record, including some familiar chord progressions and melodies. While the album does include songs that are very catchy and have hooks with replay value, I’m afraid that there is one overarching problem that is impossible to overlook. Originality.

Of course, I’m not asking Arden or any other musical artist to reinvent the wheel, as there are many great songs (especially in this particular genre) that sound alike. However, the similarities start becoming a problem when you can easily predict what the song is going to sound like within the first ten seconds of listening.

I’ll put it to you this way: If a song from this album were put into a playlist with others like it, whether on a streaming app or one sounding through the speakers at a department store, would I be able to tell the difference between this song and the next?

In this case, I wouldn’t be able to do so.


Don’t get me wrong, songs like “Room to Climb” and “Pantheon” are catchy and fun to listen to, but they include elements that we’ve already been exposed to for many years. To call many of the riffs, melodies, and even production choices “generic” would be an understatement. The only song that really stood out to me was “The Deep”, which closes out the album. The song is well-constructed and well-produced, climaxing to a brass section that was very satisfying to hear.

While being fairly good, Arden’s vocals hit some low notes in some songs. For example, the soft beginning of “Warring Kingdoms” had a boring melody that didn’t do justice to the lower register of Arden’s voice. “The Villain” had a similar section towards the end, including a few spots where Arden was straining to hit some high notes. For the most part though, Arden incorporated melodies that stayed in the comfort of his vocal range.

Overall, most of the songs on Meraki had some good ideas and were made with apparent passion, but ultimately fell flat in terms of substance. Arden himself states that his lyrics are meant to be meaningful, and while I do see some of that on the record, a lot of these verses don’t seem to reflect that. Take the opening lines to “Thoughts and Demons”:

                      There’s these demons around me.

                      And they’re watching me fight.

                      Now they’re talking about me,

                      Like that’s okay and he’s alright.

That last two stanzas don’t make sense, and there are other bars just like it, along with the weak rhyme schemes and wordplay.

We get more of this in “The Villain”, easily the most generic-sounding track on the album, which includes a synthesizer texture that is unpleasant to hear.

Yet, despite all of that, there were some good moments that I ought to mention. “Silence” is a song that was very well produced and had good orchestration, and I liked how the song changed in intensity in accordance with the lyrics. While I panned the lyricism of “Thoughts and Demons”, I found the song to be fresh and thought the melody was pretty good. “Where I’ve Been” is also kinda catchy.

Here are my ratings for each song on a scale of 0-4:

  1. Room to Climb – 2
  2. The Villain – 0
  3. Warring Kingdoms – 1
  4. Where I’ve Been – 2
  5. Silence – 3
  6. Thoughts and Demons – 2
  7. I Only Came to See You – 1
  8. I’ll Drive – 1
  9. Pantheon – 2
  10. The Deep – 4

SCORE/Mediocre: One thing I want Alden to know is that he has talent. The issue isn’t that the album itself is offensive to my ears, it’s just that the material found here is about 20 years too late and out of style. Sure, I rated most of the songs on this project to be mid, but there was one song that impressed me, so I can say with confidence that there is a lot of untapped potential to be found. I do hope Alder continues to progress and evolve as an artist, but things really do need to change if he wants to make an impact.

[We rank albums on a scale of Poor, Mediocre, Good, Excellent, and Outstanding]

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