Florida’s history for producing quality songwriters isn’t perhaps as extensive as the Midwestern states boast but nonetheless deserves praise for incubating musical artists such as Tom Petty, Jim Morrison, Dickey Betts, and Mandy Moore, among many others. King Cole deserves inclusion on that list and his new single “The Mean Season” and his songwriting ambitions are further expanded by collaborating with experienced industry talents Barry Coffing, a hit and Emmy nominated songwriter, alongside vaunted arranger Charles Calello. The latter has an impressive and lengthy discography with credits including Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”, strings for Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run epic “Jungleland”, and Frank Sinatra’s album WaterTown. Cole’s new single couples his capacity for entertaining songcraft with a substantive message that will resonate in these uncertain times. 

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Vocalist J. Buck contributes a great deal to the song’s character. He possesses a strong and clear voice exerting appreciable muscle without ever threatening to overpower the musical arrangement. He brings a playful edge to the performance without ever diluting the subject matter. The entire track has a robust pop sound but ample musicality; this isn’t some aural confection appealing to the lowest common denominator. Instead, discerning listeners will note the detail and care taken with this recording. 

The bass playing is especially notable. It provides a perhaps unexpected funk sound to the cut without ever exclusively aligning itself with that genre. Cole’s sense for effective structure is unerring and gives “The Mean Season” a punch lacking in your customary pop songs. When you apply the term “pop” to a track such as this, we’re talking about top shelf popular songwriting with commercial appeal rather than your usual Top 40 paint by numbers fare. 

The lyrics achieve a level of maturity not often heard in pop music, but Cole’s language never overreaches. His words are crafted with their focus obviously on complementing the musical arrangement rather than competing with it and benefits from accessible phrasing. The commercial instincts fueling this track are overpowering without ever feeling heavy-handed. If this is the first of a spate of singles, we can expect promoting Cole’s forthcoming release, it’s a good sign we’ll have an impressive stretch of releases pushing this album forward. 

Any new release harboring the potential for mass acceptance invariably receives a strong promotional push if possible. King Cole’s “The Mean Season” is no exception. The key difference is that Cole’s new single fully justifies this push; it is a single aiming high without wallowing in pretentiousness and appealing to the widest possible audience. It’s a song capturing the mood of the moment, as well, and that’s an increasing rarity in these fragmented times – songwriting capable of resonating across a broad personal spectrum, once a mainstay element of popular music success, has contracted into an artistic universe where success is measured in weeks or months rather than years and decades. “The Mean Season” is a potent single that bodes well for King Cole’s 2021 and you will be hard-pressed to identify any lulls in this gem.

Michael Rand

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