On the last Josh Tepper song I heard, “Guide Me Meron,” the New York City-based singer was delivering an epic, uplifting, anthemic piece with heavy spiritual connotations. “Built Me” is a very different song.
“Built Me” is very much a contemporary R&B-pop song, featuring a pitched-down vocal loop and grooving drums as the principal components of its instrumentation. Tepper and featured vocalist Madisyn Shipman trade melancholic verses about the downfall of a relationship, a suitable theme for the lower tempo and almost plodding nature of the arrangement.
Tepper’s voice, as it is on many of his pieces, is clear and smooth, though distinctly under-produced on “Built Me” compared with “Guide Me Meron.” “Built Me” in fact has an almost demo-like quality, which both lends to its authenticity and emotional impact and detracts from the listening experience. A similar paradox to what you might find listening to a very raw punk song – yes, I know that’s a strange parallel to draw here. Shipman’s voice is similarly under-produced though definitely tuned, and both vocalists present very competent performances.
Lyrically I do like the chorus, “While you were breaking me down you were building me up for another;” that’s a very nice way of putting what is, at this point, a hackneyed emotion to express in song. The rest of the lyrics support this and, while stumbling at times, are all on-topic and – as I mentioned – competently performed by both Tepper and Shipman. The melodies in this song are also very well executed. There are no awkward notes and clearly great care has been taken on this front.
Instrumentally, “Built Me” is a solid, smooth track. It has a well-structured arrangement and the vocals are well-supported throughout the song; however, it’s a bit sparse in places, which brings me to my next point.
My single overarching critique of “Built Me” would have to be the production quality. It sounds slightly undermixed-unmastered. In which case it deserves a little more love to make it really shine. As I alluded to, this doesn’t entirely detract from the emotional experience of the song, but it would make it considerably less competitive in the broader landscape of the modern music market.
Critiques aside, Tepper continues to demonstrate that he has the chops and the sensibilities to succeed. And if his streaming number is anything to go off of, clearly he’s reaching some kind of audience. It remains to be seen if “Built Me” will hit that same mark, but I’m looking forward to hearing more from this guy.
Listen to "Built Me (Duet Version)" on Spotify here -
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A brilliant addition to the repertoire -