“Make Your Move” by Justin Rudolph
Acoustic pop, by nature, tends to be more emotional than straight-up pop music is, but this genre provides a platform for contemporary balladry that is virtually unmatched in western music today. Players like Justin Rudolph are giving audiences quite the revolution in melodic songwriting in 2021, and despite a plethora of synthesized content coming down the pipes from mainstream artists, the indie pulse is winning over listeners with purist harmonies ala singles like the stylish “Make Your Move,” currently out everywhere acoustic pop is sold and streamed. Rudolph’s latest release is a thorough combination of both retro and modern folk/pop concepts, and it perhaps summarizes the main reason why music of its type has been seeing such a strong uptick this year.
The arrangement of the instruments in this single is honestly a little more complex than I would normally expect from a folky pop song, but even the dissonance it contributes to the music has a purpose within the narrative. Instead of simply using poeticisms to create an emotional connection between himself and the audience, Rudolph is using everything from the beat to the interactions between his vocal and the guitar to really drive home a sense of intimacy in this master mix. Leading the way with the melodic presence of his voice, the substance of his story in this track starts and ends with the heart he’s putting into the performance, and not the bells and whistles one would come in contact with in most FM pop music this season.
There’s an eagerness in the lead vocal that doesn’t translate to undue aggression in “Make Your Move,” but instead something a little more frustrated than lyrics would initially imply. Rudolph at times sounds like even the retrospective commentary he divvies out behind the mic is more of a statement of facts than it is a comforting memory, and it’s only through his pushiness with the beat that we’re able to appreciate how much angst he’s actually carrying on his shoulders. There are a number of unspoken emotions lying just beneath the surface in this song – yearning, melancholy, and reflection just to name a few – but as subtle as they are, they never remain obstructed by instrumental frills in the performance at all.
Raw emotion is the order of the day for Justin Rudolph in “Make Your Move,” and I didn’t need to have ever heard his music before to understand how much he’s putting on the line in this single. At the end of the day, this is a ballad made of both simple and sophisticated ingredients, and if it were performed by a player other than the man who wrote it, I can’t really picture it having the same effect it’s going to inevitably have with him at the helm. Rudolph is just a likable guy in this song; someone I would even go so far as to call universally relatable from a pop perspective, and though his style probably won’t dominate the charts this summer, it doesn’t have to in order to raise plenty of attention in the American underground.