Sunday, January 10, 2016

Return of the Tender Lover, by Babyface - Album of the Week

I admit I chose poorly.  I had the whole world of music to choose from, and I selected Babyface's "Return of the Tender Lover".  The best thing I can say about it is that it is not to my taste.  Having been made to listen to it for a week, though, I cannot quite stop there.  It is shallow, artificial, boring and a bit embarrassing.  Let me explain . . .

The way Robin and I have set up this "Album of the Week" project is that we alternate choosing an album that each of us will listen to for a week, and then offer up a review before an in-depth discussion of the music.  In that we started this project as a reaction to what we both thought was becoming a calcification of our tastes and a falling behind in the world of music, we have a strong preference for new music.  We certainly give our favorite artists a listen, but we also try to branch out a bit and expand our horizons.

So, it was my choice.  I looked at the Rolling Stone recent album reviews, and found a 3 and a half star album by someone I've never listened to.  "Romantic", "smooth", "gentle" and "a new kind of groove that could work in the club or bedroom."  I was seduced by a laudatory review and a promise that it would be easy fun.

Instead, I found myself listening to an album that came close to self-parody.  From the opening sax and slick production of "We've got Love" to the oh-so-slow shimmering percussion and hilariously inept echoes of "Our Love", it projects pre-teen image of love as smooth-jazz and superlatives.  Here's a representative sample of the pap that gets served up on this album - chosen pretty much at random, because the entire album is filled with similar writing.

Your love is exceptional,

Born of a heart of gold
It fills me up to my soul
Then my cup it overflows

No rhyme is too tortured, no metaphor is unwelcomed, no sentiment is too trite to be smeared over with honey and stuck into a smooth melody and shipped out.

To be fair, the album probably doesn't deserve the hostility it provokes in me.  Or rather, the songs probably don't individually deserve the negative reaction that the album earns.  Individually, the songs could be written off as uninteresting and overly sweet bits that might serve as a slow dance once in a while during a more interesting mix.  But, taken together, they are like nougat wrapped in cotton candy and drizzled with honey - and you have to eat it for 42 minutes and 41 seconds.

Over at Deliberate Obfuscation, though, you'll read a completely different reaction.  Robin falls head over heels for the sappy stuff, and now expects me to lip-sync one of the songs on Valentine's Day.  She has a far better-humored take on this oh-so-silly album.

Next up:  Hold My Beer, vol. 1, by Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen

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