The Good: Some creative lyrics
The Bad: Short, Drastically overproduced, No real standout songs
The Basics: Average-at-best, Foreign Affair is a Tina Turner album that lacks the resonance (and power singles) of most of her other works.
Sometimes, the problem with immersing oneself in one musical artist for a month is that if that artist or performer does not have a lot of variation to their works, one may quickly tire of them. In the case of the works of Tina Turner, that is where I am right now, at least with her late-80s works. As I’ve been listening to Foreign Affair on high replay, all I can think is that Tina Turner must have had some serious street cred and a powerful fanbase to recover from this album. This very poppy, overproduced and is remarkable now to listen to for the fact that the only recognizable songs from it tend to be recognizable because they are on other compilations.
Foreign Affair does not have a strong single to sell the album, but it also is so repetitive and monotonous in the instrumental accompaniment and production that it holds up poorly over multiple listens. The result is an album that seems to want to trade solely on the vocal force of Tina Turner. The problem is, when one can have Tina Turner’s voice coupled with great lyrics and interesting production, why would one settle for Tina Turner’s voice with mediocre lyrics and terrible, repetitive, blasé production? I have no satisfactory answer for that.
With only a dozen songs occupying 52:16, Foreign Affair is creatively minimally the work of Tina Turner. Tina Turner appears as the primary vocalist on the album – though she hands off to backing vocalists a troubling amount on “You Know Who (Is Doing You Know What)” – as well as a co-executive producer of the album as well as co-producer on “The Best” and “Ask Me How I Feel.” She does not play any musical instruments on the album, nor was she involved in writing any of the music or lyrics. Usually having producer status means that one gets the sound they intended to release, but in the case of Foreign Affair, one suspects Turner just got the best out of the material she was given.
Instrumentally, Foreign Affair is hampered by a “Big '80s” sound and sense of production values. The album sounds more like a Bon Jovi or hair band album from the late 1980 in many ways. The guitars are heavier on “Steamy Windows,” “Undercover Agent For The Blues,” and “The Best.” Even the keyboards are oppressively noticeable on “Ask Me How I Feel.” The album is loud in the instrumental accompaniment and it is a very typical, overproduced keyboard, guitar and percussion sound with almost no real variation track to track, making it very hard to listen to over and over again and get anything remotely interesting out of the experience. In fact, the only real surprise for me on the instrumental accompaniment or production was the fact that Lindsey Buckingham did NOT produce “Look Me In The Heart.”
Vocally, Tina Turner is performing very much at her predictable levels. While Turner has extraordinary range, the listener comes to the album knowing that and unfortunately, Foreign Affair has little to offer listeners that they have not already heard. Moreover, Turner displays her range more on this album track to track, as opposed to within each song. So, for example, “Undercover Agent For The Blues” has Turner performing low and soulful and “Not Enough Romance” has her going higher, but the two registers never truly mix on this album. The songs are quieter, like the single Foreign Affair, or boisterous, like “Ask Me How I Feel” with little tempo or emotional variation within the songs as well.
Turner has a few songs on Foreign Affair that are interesting. In addition to the title track, which is a decent musical storysong, Turner is wonderfully sensual with the lines she sings on “Steamy Windows.” And, despite having some repetition, Turner makes some of the songs about love and loss – topics she frequently sings about – sound good. So, she convincingly sells “My sentimental ways don’t seem to phase you / I don’t ever wanna force your hand / If you met me one time, just half the way / I could meet you where you are / Just meet me where I am / Cause every now and then you’ve gotta drive right in / Deeper than deep / You take a chance and then you give the wheel a spin / Anyone can see” (“Falling Like Rain”). Tina Turner can take some middling or interesting poetry and make it into a wonderful song.
Unfortunately, Turner gets very repetitive with refrains on songs like “You Can’t Stop Me Loving You“ and “Be Tender With Me Baby.” As well, even Turner cannot overcome some terrible lines like “Look me in the heart / If you think that love is blind / Baby look me in the heart / And you'll see that I'm so crazy about you baby / And it's not in my mind / Can't you look me in the heart / Look me in the heart” (“Look Me In The Heart”). Without consistently good lyrics, Turner’s albums falter and Foreign Affair is a good example of that.
For very middling pop-rock, Foreign Affair fits the bill, but for anything better, including an enduring album, it flops. Even those who love '80s pop will have a tough time finding works of enduring greatness, or even adequacy, on Foreign Affair.
The best track is “The Best,” the low point is “You Know Who (Is Doing You Know What).”
For other works by Tina Turner, please check out my reviews of:
What You Hear Is What You Get: Live At Carnegie Hall - Ike & Tina Turner
The Best Of Ike And Tina Turner – Ike & Tina Turner
The Very Best Of Ike & Tina Turner - Ike and Tina Turner
What's Love Got To Do With It? Soundtrack
Twenty Four Seven
All The Best (2-disc version)
Tina! Her Greatest Hits
For other music reviews, please check out my index page!
© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.