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“Like a Fire” by Jack Ryan

Acoustic pop/rock needs strong charisma to sell well, and if there’s one thing that Jack Ryan has going for him in spades, it’s a natural charm that can turn any verse he sings into an agent of evocative warmth. Ryan’s new single “Like a Fire” starts with electric guitar kindling and gains momentum behind its beat quickly, and when he starts to sing to us in that honey-sweet vocal of his, it’s like we’re watching a flame burst to life all at once. He’s controlled yet loose and freewheeling, which is a combination I haven’t seen much of in the past few years.

These lyrics are remarkably disarming and do a good job of enchanting the listener right off the bat, and though the imagery in the music video is a bit simplistic by comparison, I think the latter needed to be for the former to be realized the right way on screen. I can’t see a lot of props standing in for the organic emotionality this song presents with in its most barebones state, and thus, Jack Ryan deciding to make a relatively straightforward video for “Like a Fire” makes all the sense in the world from a creative standpoint.

Ryan’s voice is such a humble adornment on these wandering guitar strings, but make no mistake about it – his singing is what makes this piece such an attractive summer listen. He’s transmitting so much affection, so much raw virginal wit through his melody that the words are able to maturely shape the narrative as precisely as he wants. Imagistic as they are, these verses just wouldn’t have the same weight with a different man at the helm of this single, which speaks more to the unique brilliance of Jack Ryan than it does any kind of singularity within his artistry or composing style.

The guitar in this mix is uncontainable and emotionally charged, but it stops far short of sounding like a sappy, post-hipster indie frill that’s just along for the ride. The strings dance manically beneath the verses and colorize the words in a way that wouldn’t have turned out the same way with a piano in the background instead, and while I think they’re a little loud for what Ryan needed in this scenario, their oversized presence doesn’t sound offensive. It’s a little artsy, but “Like a Fire” has an honest kinship with its audience that isn’t commonplace in pop by any measurement.

With his experience on the street (and the seas, for that matter) taken into account, Jack Ryan’s putting his experience to great use in “Like a Fire” and setting the bar pretty high for his contemporaries to try and match. He’s so adept to the groove and skillful with his strings in this single and its video, and in time I can see him breaking through to the mainstream primarily because of his soft demeanor and what he can communicate with it. I’ll be sticking around for more, and I think you’d be wise to do the same.

John McCall

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