With his rainbow-hued album covers and hair color choices, his Katy Perry and Prince-loving cover band alter egos, and his shameless embrace of glorious, candy-colored, teeth-rotting synth-pop melodies, Dean Ford is as close to a full-on pop star as Maine currently has. He doesn’t pretend to be anything else — since jettisoning his pop-punk past with Portland band the Goodnight Process, he’s fully transformed himself into a suits- and eyeliner-wearing pop frontman, straight outta 2015.
With “Get Messy,” his new full length that comes out next Tuesday, Aug. 18, Ford is fearless in his adoption of a thoroughly contemporary pop sound — think Maroon 5, Kesha, Katy Perry, P!NK and Lady GaGa. Think a drunken Instagram photo taken in a dark club with the X-Pro filter. Think a hastily assembled H&M outfit and several vodka sodas. I’m sure his mere existence is infuriating to the basement show-playing art student contingent of the Portland music scene, and I’m sure Ford could care less about their approval. He doesn’t need their approval. He’s here for the people.
Case in point: lead single “Get Messy,” anchored by a club-ready beat and club-ready lyrics, a catchy hook sung by vocalist Renee Coolbrith and a guest rap from the King of Maine himself, Spose. Do you have any idea how much fun the crowd is going to have when they hear this song played live? Or how great it’s going to sound while you’re driving in a car on a Saturday night? Maybe you do, and you’re super psyched about it. Maybe you don’t care. Either way, Ford is here to have a good time regardless of how you might feel about it, though hopefully you’ll come along for the ride — which is essentially what the entirety of “Get Messy” as an album is about. Girls, partying, being excited. Don’t read the lyrics. They are not amazing. And in this context, that does not matter.
“Good Looks & Money” is one of the standout tracks on “Get Messy,” anchored by a spare, funky guitar line that ever-so-slightly belies Ford’s pop-punk past before blasting off into the pop stratosphere. Album closer “Just Tonight” owes a debt to Justin Timberlake, another pop idol Ford clearly admires. The production on this album is crisp, clean, shiny, in that Max Martin kind of way — is there anything Jonathan Wyman can’t do? — like on “Waste My Night Away,” which somehow manages to combine dubstep “wub-wubs” and bouncy Euro-pop beats and makes it sound coherent. Honestly, the whole thing is beyond criticism. Either you love and embrace pop music in the way Dean Ford has, or you can’t stand it. Either you’re not going to the party, or you’ve already cracked open the box of wine and started doing your hair.