2019 has given us a lot of studs and duds to sort through in the ocean of new releases out of the American indie underground, but this spring the always reliable Jon Dowling returns to the headlines with a single titled “Don’t Wanna Own the World” that has got enough muscle to make any music fan weak at the knees. The dashing singer/songwriter is back after a decade away from the studio, and in a twist of fate, he sounds even more talented and sure of his style than he ever did in past appearances on your local FM dial.
“Don’t Wanna Own the World” is fairly straightforward from a lyrical perspective, and it doesn’t delve into enigmatic poetry that would have made it harder for us to grasp the full scope of what Dowling is trying to express to us here. From what I took away in this song, Dowling isn’t demanding an answer from his lover in this track, but posing a question to both her and himself that will only be answered through the actions that they collectively take as a couple. He’s looking for self-acceptance in this song, but moreover, an understanding of what his place in the big picture of life truly is. It’s got the makings of being an existential ballad, but it doesn’t drift too far away from mainstream pop theatrics to be dismissible as an avant-garde experiment.
The love that exists between Jon Dowling and this piano harmony is perhaps even more passionate in tone than the narrative behind his words is, and I think that “Don’t Wanna Own the World” tells us more about his commitment to songcraft than it does the future direction of his sound. At this point in his career, he doesn’t have anything left to prove to us other than his relevancy, which is confirmed in the anti-postmodern realism that drives the moving chorus. He’s in this game for the long run, and he’s acting like it in this single.
I would have made the bassline just a touch louder in the mix than it is, but I can understand why Dowling decided to keep it where it’s at here. There’s never anything strong enough to steer our attention away from his vocal, and the absence of a brutish bass makes it a little easier for us to absorb the radiant energy that the lyrics have when he croons them to us in the sweet, natural timbre of his voice. Not every single has to be riddled with machismo to pummel us with texture, and this song is tangible evidence supporting as much.
You’d be hard-pressed to find another single of this excellent quality among Jon Dowling’s peers in the adult contemporary scene this month, and by the time that the end of 2019 comes around, I have a feeling that we’re still going to be discussing the impact of this sterling lyrical masterpiece. Some listeners are more than content to listen to something that has been twice-processed and outfitted with fluff in the name of populist appeal, but for the rest of us, there’s songs like “Don’t Wanna Own the World” and the ambitious artists like Jon Dowling who conceive them.