Before I get to my review, I just wanted to mention that my experience of this album was disrupted. I was listening to it on Google Play but when I went back for my second listen it had just disappeared. Vanished without a trace. I assume the licensing agreement expired but I don’t know what actually happened. I bring this up because I wasn’t able to find another complete version of the album to listen to in time and I ended up listening to a version missing a few songs, so my experience of this record was likely coloured by that.
Though I grew up in the era when Jann Arden had her biggest success, and though she has definitely been a musician I was at least aware of (because I am Canadian), I don’t know much about her and I never paid much attention to her. I actually didn’t even remember that “Could I be Your Girl” was her. Beyond the renewed interest in her generated by her recent TV success, I hadn’t thought much about her at all since she was popular.
One reason for that is her style of music – it wasn’t my thing when this album came out and it’s not my thing now, though for entirely different reasons. Back then I didn’t listen to contemporary music on purpose. Now I don’t really go in for this kind of rather bloodless, over-produced, contemporary singer-songwriter thing. Even if she was an excellent songwriter the aesthetic would likely put me off.
The catchiest and most immediate thing here, her biggest hit, wasn’t actually written by her. And I can’t help but wonder if that was her idea to cover it or the label did the usual “I don’t hear a single!” thing. But the rest of her material is decent enough that you can understand why she’s had a successful career.
And her voice is compelling enough. But the arrangements around her are so very typical of the mid ’90s female singer-songwriter boom; they don’t have any identifiable characteristics to them beyond this and there’s nothing for my overly active brain to focus on and I just get bored. I might like this record more if the songs were more stripped down or if the arrangements had any kind of of idiosyncrasy to them, but they don’t.
And Arden herself doesn’t really do this record any favours. She’s a good singer, but she’s not much of a performer in the way I really like. In getting stuck listening to different versions of these songs, I stumbled across a live version of “Looking for It” and I must say that I don’t find her performance captivating at all. This is not the kind of singer and band I would pay to go see. It just doesn’t move me at all, and I think that’s on her.
But the songs are decent and the whole thing is competent. I just wish there was more energy or quirk, or something to distinguish it from the legion of other similar singer-songwriter albums of the era.
6/10 I guess