Of all the new boy bands that have cropped up to replace One Direction, PrettyMuch has been an interesting one to watch. The group formed back in 2016 after an exhaustive talent search by Simon Cowell’s Syco Music and Columbia Records. Since then, the band members have honed their skills and worked to grow a following.
The group consists of Brandon Arreaga, Edwin Honoret, Austin Porter, Nick Mara and Zion Kuwonu — all barely making the ’90s baby cutoff. It’s a diverse group, and one that obviously puts the work in, releasing a steady stream of songs and videos and embarking on two tours since their debut single, “Would You Mind,” dropped in July 2017.
The group released their second EP May 24. The project, entitled “Phases,” is an interesting move for the boy band in their sound.
In their previous releases, PrettyMuch had created a sound that showcased a pop-focused ’90s nostalgia with heavy influences from modern hip-hop and R&B. It was less of a callback to One Direction than it was to the boy bands that paved the way long before, like The Backstreet Boys and NSYNC.
On the “Phases” EP, the group has lost some of the edge that made their music intriguing. The music present here is clean-cut, down-tempo pop songs. The six-song collection consists of bland ballads that could all be swapped out for each other.
Whereas previous releases like “Jello” and “Solita” had fun playful energies and unique elements that made them feel distinctly connected to the band, none of these tracks have that. Only two of the songs from the collection even make much of an impression.
The first is the title track “Phases,” which leads the EP and was released some weeks prior. This track is a touching ballad about waiting on the sidelines for someone to grow up and be ready for you. It acts as a kind of bridge from the group’s previous releases to these slower works. It has the flavors of hip-hop production, a short rapped bridge and the tight vocal ad-libs that fans of the group have become accustomed to. The track was produced by duo Some Randoms, who worked on a handful of tracks from Kehlani’s “SweetSexySavage.” It is easily the strongest track on the project with well-crafted chorus melodies and narrative lyrics.
The other track that stands out is the closing track, “One Shot.” Its strength is due in part to the powerful narrative presented in the lyrics. The track also demonstrates some of the strongest vocal arrangements on the EP, a skill the band seemed to have a knack for previously.
The other four tracks on the EP are forgettable. While it feels like these songs could mean something to the band members, the lyrics and melodies aren’t strong on their own. The production feels a little too par for the course when it comes to pop music, recycling last year’s trends (pitched vocal samples, slow afrobeats and vanilla latin influence).
None of these tracks manage to reach the heights of PrettyMuch’s standalone singles like “No More,” “Jello,” “Solita” and, especially, “Open Arms.” The EP they released last year was also a bit lackluster, which draws concerns as to whether the band will be able to pull together a full-length product in the future.
Still, I will continue to follow the band and look forward to the release of some tracks they have teased in previous tours, as well as new songs I’m sure they have up their sleeves. It surely won’t be much longer with this group.
PrettyMuch will be performing July 20 in Philadelphia at The Met.