REVIEW: Gabriele Saro and Ivan Comar — Beautiful Stranger (SINGLE)

You’ve heard songs such as “Beautiful Stranger” and “Valentine” under different titles and in other iterations. Gabriele Saro and Ivan Comar’s contributions to 2021’s pop music world is not intending to make you reconsider the nature of song and its possibilities. They cover familiar ground. They cover said ground, however, with stylistic flourish that few modern musicians today attempt to match and with a wide-open emotional tenor that embraces listeners rather than erecting distance between them and their fans. This is generous, giving music that withholds nothing and has one aim above all others — entertaining listeners. On this front, Saro and Comar’s work is a spectacular success in every way.


“Valentine” is a holiday aimed release but does not fit the stereotypical mold of such tracks. Their willingness to break with this mild convention, nowhere as restrictive as the general wisdom about Christmas tracks for instance, is a good signal we are getting something genuine rather than calculated for maximum effect. The juxtaposition of rough hewn guitar with the song’s synthesizer and keyboard dominated structure makes for a good mix. Saro and Comar also benefit from spot on production that gives the music immediacy rather than a low-key demeanor. Despite the lyrics, there is a sense of something at stake here and you hear from the song’s outset.

The vocal arrangement for “Valentine” is a little less cluttered than we hear during “Beautiful Stranger” but it, conversely, does connect with the same overwhelming force. The chorus of the latter track is its burning center, where everything comes together, and the singing capitalizes on the dramatic possibilities by pushing the emotional envelope harder than ever before. It is a thrilling moment.


The drums, however, hooked me into “Beautiful Stranger” more than anything. The full on effect of the snare drum setting an irrepressible beat acts as a musical shot in the arm recurring through the track. It counterbalances the presence of synths and keyboards while still maintaining an effective balance with those elements. It does not overextend itself either, the same with the earlier “Valentine”, and you can’t help but be impressed by the tight songwriting that nevertheless flows from first note to last.


Releasing two songs at the same time used to be commonplace, older listeners will be familiar with A and B sides, but these are both marquee tracks by any measure. Gabriele Saro has tirelessly labored to expand his musical horizons and the payoff has rewarded him in ways he likely cannot fully grasp, but these new releases push his music into the mainstream more than ever before. These are songs capable of proving the best pop music is not inherently disposable and definitely suggests Saro and Comar’t best work lays in front of them rather than behind. Hearing Saro develop with each new release has been a great joy and I expect to continue following his trajectory for many more years to come. You should as well. How could you not when he keeps producing winners such as this?

Colin Jordan

Graduate: McNeese State University, Avid Beekeeper, Deep Sea Diver & Fisherman, Horrible Golfer