Butch Walker is a man of many talents. Like an ever-increasing number of contemporary artists, he’s tapped into the lucrative racket of writing for artists other than himself. His songwriting credits run the gamut from Avril Lavigne to a 2009 marketing campaign for Coca-Cola and as a producer, he’s worked with marquee names from Weezer to a little-known Nashville artist by the name of Taylor Swift. All the while though, he’s enjoyed a solid – and somewhat underrated – solo career. With six studio albums already under his belt and the seventh – Afraid of Ghosts – due in February, he returns with his latest single 21+ with some help from a pretty unlikely source.
21+ is a pretty subdued affair when stacked against the anthemic, hyper-compressed radio rock for which Walker is known. A mournful retrospective delivered as a simplistic country/folk-ballad with little more than acoustic guitar and distant piano for backing, it’s the kind of song that can stand up on its own without the bells and whistles. This being said, the subtle accordion and guitar solo outro from none other than Mr. Johnny Depp (Yes, that Johnny Depp) punctuate the track’s melancholy overtones perfectly.
It’s an interesting track, but a bold choice for Afraid of Ghosts’ first single since – unlike the majority of Butch’s discography – there’s nothing flashy to grab your ear and maintain the pop world’s ever-shrinking attention span. Whether this proves to be a good decision will probably remain unclear until the album provides a little more context.