Let’s get it out into the open right away: Savage Garden are completely mainstream. They’re clean-cut, popular among teenage girls, and could comfortably be played in the car with mom and dad. It’s commonly thought that artists of this type are incapable of making truly good records. Savage Garden blow this preconception out of the water with Affirmation, easily the best mainstream pop release of the year, and also a fine album outside of that limiting genre. It’s a slick amalgam of pop elements, ranging from danceable beats (“Chained to You” and “The Animal Song”) to sublime melodies (“I Knew I Loved You,” plus pretty much everything else). A lesser group would let these sounds fall over each other into a sticky, saccharine mess. But Savage Garden keep everything breezy and pretty throughout, never getting cloying or overly sweet.
More importantly, they put an obvious dose of heart and soul into their songwriting. They don’t write artificial-sounding ballads, such as those that one hears from the likes of the tepid 98 Degrees. Rather, Affirmation is full of tunes with actual feeling. Tracks like “Hold Me,” “The Lover After Me,” and “Gunning Down Romance” discuss love in a real way, and are considerably endearing. It’s not often that one hears corporate music (much less corporate pop) with genuine heart, but that quality is here in spades.
Affirmation isn’t for everybody—anyone with any kind of aversion to silky smooth vocals and flawless instrumentation should stay away. But those who enjoy their pop free of fuzz and far beyond the four-track will find a definite winner here.