Saturday, December 03, 2005

Jennifer Paige (self-titled)

Jennifer Paige is most well-known for her smash pop hit 'Crush' which became quite popular in the late 90's. The single received major airplay on radio and launched the artist to full stardom. Since then, Ms. Paige's popularity has kind of tapered off, her follow-up release Positively Somewhere not achieving the same success as this debut album. Still, I consider the artist as one of the most underrated performers of our generation. And I believe she still has a hit or two in her waiting to get out.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this CD. Let's clear up some popular misconceptions about her type of music first. For one, the songs in this album are more rythm and blues than disco/pop. This is what makes the song Crush unique, it was an R&B tune disguised as sugary pop music.

Second - the lyrics in these songs are rich and poetic - much like a Suzanne Vega composition, yet disguised as light and easygoing. I can't give Jennifer credit for the words since she doesn't write her own songs. But she does deliver them with a passion and emotion that leads you to believe she can personally relate to them. This is her main talent and strength.

Third - Crush is not the best song in this CD. In fact, you may be disappointed if you bought this album solely for Crush. The pacing and feel of the rest of the tracks are different - a little bit slower, a little bit more soul and emotion. The vocals are powerful yet not gimicky and Paige resists the temptation to show off, unlike most of her contemporaries who constantly feel the need to shriek several octaves higher to garner attention.

We have two mellow love songs in 'Always You' and 'Between You and Me'. I heard that 'Always You' was a minor hit, but it hasn't grown on me. 'Let it Rain' and 'Somewhere, Someday' are songs that give hope and support to friends in time of need. These tracks are not exceptional, but have the potential of being future favorites. Some can sound repetitive after several listens and may feel like a letdown after hearing the hyper energy 'Crush'.

Now for the good ones. 'Just to Have You' is extremely catchy, very sticky and fun to both listen and sing along with. 'Busted' is my favorite song in the CD. Makes me wonder why it wasn't released to radio. You will smile at the cute and funny lyrics that mention lines such as "chewing on my raisinettes", "checking out my pay per view", and multiple references to dessert, all in an infatuation-intoxicated setting sang unbashedly in the R&B style.

You may remember 'Sober' which was a minor hit during its release and in my opinion is Jennifer's best song to date. Great voice, melody, lyrics that tell a story. This has it all. Check out the video too which features the melancholy singer trapped in a dreamlike airport terminal.

What we've got here are two kickass songs in 'Sober' and 'Busted', two catchy songs in 'Crush' and 'Just to Have You', and a good supporting cast of light easy listening tracks. Not bad for a debut album.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars * * * *
Very underrated artist, watch for a comeback.

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