Most people who are not fans of Randy Newman seem to be put off by his voice. (Though given his prominence lately, and given the sheer proliferation of unique voices, I think that he sounds a lot less weird than he did when he first starting releasing music.)
My problem with Randy Newman is that I can’t make up my mind about him because I believe he can’t make up his mind about himself. The most famous track on this record is “I Love L.A.,” which, if you’ve ever listened to attentively, you know is not a celebration of LA – much like “Born in the USA,” it is used in stadiums and other places without irony due to its chorus. But then there are totally earnest songs here to go along with the satire. I guess I just wish he would pick satire over earnestness, or at least pick earnestness and stick to it, than try to do both. I don’t know what to think otherwise. What I mean to say is I have trouble connecting to him because of the dual impulses he has to both mock and be understood.
In addition to that, there is the shitty ’80s production, which not only dates the record but also has not held up very well. (I guess I am listening to a record that has yet to be remastered because, in addition to sounding like it was made in the early 1980s, it also doesn’t sound as professional as many of those ’80s records still do.)
But all of this criticism does sell Newman short: he has a pretty good sense of melody and his lyrics are well above average, even if I rarely like them.
I don’t know that I’ll ever warm to him, but this could be a lot worse.