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our score: 2.5 out of 5.0
in the midst of my Twenties I realize it is a bit odd, even immature,
to have a crush on a young pop star I will never even have a chance
to meet (unless of course I get invited to the next P. Diddy party,
which I am keeping my fingers crossed for). But what is hardest
for me to accept is that I could have met my dear Michelle, and
subsequently swept her off her feet. On a cold October night of
my freshman year in college Ms. Branch embarked on her first U.S.
headlining tour and made a stop at the intimate little Café
Montmartre in Madison, Wisconsin. I begged and pleaded for someone
to accompany me to the show, but since I could find no takers
I graciously accepted my role as a freshman and probably drank
my night away, thus leaving Michelle’s life as well as my
own lonely and unfulfilled to this day. Why do I dare recount
this embarrassing piece of pop idolization that could ruin the
indie credibility I have long strived for? Because the longer
I spend damning myself the less space I have to devote to slandering
my would-be partner.
2001 major label debut The Spirit Room was about as frothy
and straight ahead as pop rock can get, but honestly it was some
damn fine froth. While songs such as “Everywhere”,
“All You Wanted”, and “If Only She Knew”
didn’t dare to tread any ground not already tread a thousand
times, the slick production and-most importantly-self penned lyrics
made for an album full of guilty pleasures and tasty pop tracks.
But what really helped make The Spirit Room such a listenable
album was that this was a 17 year old pop singer actually wearing
clothing, playing instruments, and (gasps!) writing songs in an
age where Britney and Christina ruled the airwaves. Fast forward
to 2003 and suddenly Britney is off the radar screen, Christina
had much of her latest effort produced by alternative rocker Linda
Perry (albeit still undressed), and some of the biggest names
in pop are young girls with bands (Pink, Avril, even Disney starlet
Hilary Duff). Suddenly wearing a guitar around your neck isn’t
enough to be different. In order to take her career to the next
level Michelle needed to respond to the new teen pop scene with
something much more grand, but instead Hotel Paper sounds
like the forced response to a record exec’s demand for a
product to push while the “rock” sound was hot.
there is one word that can sum up the entirety of Hotel Paper
it is "bland." Nothing comes close to the shimmering
hits off of The Spirit Room and no track is ever able
to discern itself from any of the others. With song titles such
as “Are You Happy Now?”, “Where Are You Now?”,
“Till I Get Over You”, and “It’s You”,
each track tends to bleed right into the other and the only thing
the listener is left to ponder is how boring of a guy “You”
must have been to warrant such boring songs. But possibly the
weakest track on an album full of them is the Sheryl Crow duet
“Love Me Like That”. If lyrics such as “look
me in the eye babe, and tell me, why ya gonna love me like that,
why ya gonna love me like that” aren’t bad enough,
even worse is that this is the best that a Grammy Award winning
artist and Grammy nominated artist could come up with, and the
song continues both artists’ streak of horrid duets.
has proved she can write infectious hits, and as long as she can
avoid songs such as Crow’s Worst Song of All Time Nominee
“Picture”, and be given time to actually write some
good pop instead of rushing out a set of dreary ballads maybe
all is not lost in her young career.
sorry Michelle, I still think you are beautiful.
liked Hotel Paper...
2. Are You Happy Now?
3. Find My Way Back
4. Empty Handed
5. Tuesday Morning
6. One Of These Days
7. Love Me Like That
10. Where are You Now?
11. Hotel Paper
12. Til I Get Over You
13. It's You