Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What Am I Gonna Do About You Is A Successful, If Short, Reba McEntire Album!

The Good: Good vocals, Decent instrumental accompaniment, Generally wonderful lyrics
The Bad: SHORT!
The Basics: A very tight, but diverse album, What Am I Gonna Do About You is hampered only by being short and a little simple.

In my month of immersion in the music of Reba McEntire, I was overwhelmed by mediocrity. With some of her best works, McEntire still provides small portions with c.d.s that could, usually, be doubled up to fill the capacity of a single disc. As well, McEntire has suffered under my pen (just as my ears have suffered) for having music which is largely instrumentally simple and, frankly, pretty dull. After a dozen listens to What Am I Gonna Do About You, though, I'm finding myself with remarkably little to write because Reba McEntire has created an impressive Country-pop album with this one.

On What Am I Gonna Do About You, Reba McEntire performs music which is a mix of energetic pop-Country and classic Country ballads and despite the short duration, the mix holds up remarkably well over multiple listens. Instead of feeling like the album either drones on as some form of elevator music of indistinct Country music, What Am I Gonna Do About You changes up with virtually every song, mixing throughout the various styles near Country that Reba McEntire is comfortable performing in.

With only ten songs occupying 35:52, the biggest detraction to What Am I Gonna Do About You is the lack of content. This is another album where Reba McEntire has very limited creative control, but she was provided with pretty exceptional material. McEntire is only a singer on this album. She did not write or co-write any of the songs, nor does she play any of the musical instruments on the album. Instead, she appears on this album as the primary vocalist and a co-producer. Even so, it seems like she is making statements in the songs she is performing that she agrees with and wants to make, so it is hard to say this is not her musical vision.

What Am I Gonna Do About You is, arguably, Reba McEntire's most musically diverse album, at least up to the point in her career it was released. While the album opens with a very traditional honky-tonk style of Country music with "Why Not Tonight," it quickly goes into a very poppy ballad with the title track, before becoming a more Classic Country ballad sound on "Lookin' For A New Love Song." "Take Me Back" might be Country, but it sure sounds like 1950s rock! The album is a good mix of musical storysongs - "My Mind Is On You" and "I Heard Her Cryin'" both could be Folk songs - and songs about emotions, like "Let The Music Lift You Up." The auditory and thematic diversity makes each song stand alone remarkably well, though the album manages to come together exceptionally well in the end.

Part of the reason for the album working so well together overall has to be the instrumental consistency of the work. McEntire's instrumental accompanist play traditional Country instruments like the steel guitar and fiddles, but this album also employs electric guitars. Throughout, there is little percussion and the keyboards actually provide most of McEntire's musical background. Each song has a distinctive genre and sound, which makes the album sound very diverse. McEntire and her co-producer Jimmy Brown utilize their producing capacity well to balance the instrumentals so on songs like "My Mind Is On You," the melody actually has the same volume resonance as the vocals.

As for the vocals, Reba McEntire has a great alto voice and on What Am I Gonna Do About You, she stretches up into the soprano range for a song or two, but mostly she keeps within her range. What is likely to impress listeners is how McEntire's vocals are crystal clear and articulate and she is a master of the lower ranges of the alto register. She also has the ability to sing enthusiastically and fast (as she does on "Let The Music Lift You Up") and slow and soulful, like on "I Heard Her Cryin'." As well, she manages her trademark Country sass on songs like "No Such Thing."

Thematically, What Am I Gonna Do About You is a decently diverse album oscillating between the usual topics of love and loss and more inspired concepts like missed opportunities and consequences of actions. So, for example, Reba McEntire performs a rare "near miss" relationship song with "One Promise Too Late." What makes the song so impressive is the matter-of-fact way she sings "We could have shared our lives together / And held each other close all through the years / But I've met someone before you / And my heart just couldn't wait / So no matter how much I adore you / I've got to stand behind the promise that I made / Where were you / When I could have loved you / Where were you / When I gave my heart away / All my life I've been dreaming of you / You came along one promise too late" ("One Promise Too Late") without a sense of complaint. While the lines have a clear sense of loss to them, McEntire doesn't belabor the pain and instead, her musical protagonist comes across as if she is saying "You missed your chance!"

This is not to say the album does not have real emotion to it. Like most Reba McEntire works, she can get a genuine emotional reaction out of her listeners and my biggest surprise was how well she did it while using some mediocre-at-best-lyrics. Rhymes like "The sound goes above the slamming door / And broken dishes thrown around the floor / So loud it made us stop / It was the sound of a teardrop" ("I Heard Her Cryin'") are not the most impressive, but they weave together a very simple musical story about how adults fighting can often hurt children. This holds true, as well, for the repetition in "My Mind Is On You."

Overall, this is a wonderful album for anyone who likes well-written pop-Country and the real drawback is the unfortunately small portion, as opposed to what is on the album. Anyone who likes music will find something on this album they enjoy.

The best track is "My Mind Is On You," the weak track is "Till It Snows In Mexico."

For other Reba McEntire works, please check out my reviews of:
Feel The Fire
Heart To Heart
Just A Little Love
Have I Got A Deal For You
The Best Of Reba McEntire
Whoever’s In New England
Sweet Sixteen
It's Your Call
Greatest Hits Volume III: I'm A Survivor
Room To Breathe
20th Century Masters: Christmas Collection - Best Of Reba


For other album reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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