Thursday, January 12, 2012

Even The Best Solo Song By Susanna Hoffs, "All I Want," Isn't Worth This Price!

The Good: Good mix, Generally well-written, Great sound
The Bad: Poor use of the medium,Ridiculously expensive(when it can be found),Not indicative of artist's talents.
The Basics: Even though I love the primary song and accept the b-side on "All I Want," the single is an impossible sell, especially at collector's prices!

Singles are a tough sell for me. After all, how much can one truly say about a two-track album, especially when the song is either completely obscure or one that virtually everyone in the world knows. Definitely on the obscure side of modern singles is the Susanna Hoffs single "All I Want."

"All I Want" was the biggest single (in the U.S. anyway) from Susanna Hoffs' sophomore album, Susanna Hoffs (her debut solo album is reviewed here!). It was a catchy song that was reasonably well-written, certainly had hit potential (though it would have been up against a burgeoning little act called the Spice Girls at the time), sounded good and displayed some serious vocal talent from the former (de facto) lead singer of The Bangles. On the "single," "All I Want" is paired with another track from the album, the ballad "Those Days Are Over."

With only two songs that occupy less than ten minutes on the compact disc, "All I Want" is a terrible use of the c.d. medium. Moreover, now given the apparent rarity of the actual c.d. it is obscene to think some might end up shelling out almost $40 for this two-track single. Given the capacity of a c.d., this is quite a waste. That said, "All I Want" is a real split between the talents and vision of Susanna Hoffs and those of her record label. The irony is that the "a-side" titled single was not written by Hoffs, but the b-side "Those Days Are Over" was both co-written and co-produced by Hoffs. Susanna Hoffs does co-produce "All I Want" and she provides the lead vocals on both tracks.

First, to be absolutely clear, I love the song "All I Want." I'm going to write more in depth about that in a moment, but it is worth noting that this is one of my favorite songs from the nineties and whenever I hear it, I have fond memories of the place and time I was working when I would hear it back in the day. I love the song and I am happy to be articulate about that in a moment. The thing is, this listing is for the c.d. single and as a c.d. single, I have to consider the value of the overall product. The song alone - even with "Those Days Are Over" - would be a hard four, maybe even a four and a half. I would strongly recommend the song and I think that if one can find the single cheap, it's a great way to go and if one has the opportunity to legally get a digital download of the song that is far, far, far less expensive, it is hard to do better for an adult-contemporary/pop lover to do than "All I Want." But at this cost (in the $40 range) for two songs, it's impossible to recommend and ultimately it is a poor value and an abysmal use of the medium, especially for the cost. For that price, one could hunt down every album by The Bangles and (probably) the solo albums of Susanna Hoffs and still have money for a burger afterwards!

That said, why all the fuss about a two-song single? For those who have not heard it, "All I Want" is a melodic pop-rock song that combines an upbeat guitar sound, Susanna Hoffs' sugary vocals with lyrics that are actually tormented and sad. Hoffs presents a plaintive wail for attention and understanding and it is a shame that arguably her best single was not written or co-written by her.

Lyrically, the song is straightforward and Hoffs sings the song with clear articulation. The song is about stopping a lover in his tracks and demanding to be taken seriously and Hoffs succeeds with that with the deceptively simple lines like "Can't ignore or hide away / Can't escape from the things that line our way / Take it, leave it, break it / Anyway, you can't get back to yesterday. / All I want / All I wanna do / You better listen from now on / Stop what's goin' on / Stop what's goin' wrong / You better listen from now on" ("All I Want"). There is a refreshing directness to the song and the vocals of Susanna Hoffs are equally direct.

This is not to say that the song lacks poetics, because it does have that with bridges that ring out in Hoffs' soprano voice, like "Sleepin' in the dark / Dreamin' of the stars / Keep one to wish on from now on" ("All I Want"). In other words, in this song Hoffs makes both a reasonable emotional demand and makes it interesting. "All I Want" has high replayability because the song carries a universal message and presents it well.

Anyone who likes pop-rock with a feminine voice will enjoy "All I Want." The guitars are strong, the vocals have moments that are actually haunting with the level of desire they express and the song is the right combination of memorable and catchy.

The other song on the single is "Those Days Are Over" and it is a pretty mediocre pop ballad. In fact, this slower song has a similar emotional resonance to "All I Want," making it a good companion song on the single, and it is refreshing to hear Hoffs sing something she co-wrote and co-produced. And just as "All I Want" is direct about standing up to the indifference of a partner, "Those Days Are Over" is a pretty straightforward breakup song.

Slower than "All I Want," Hoffs wrote and sang the lines "People wrote you off / I never wanted to / You really broke my heart / But then that's nothing new / That's all over now. / You really won this time / Those days are over / Hey, you really won this time / Those days are over" ("Those Days Are Over"). The song is much simpler and a bit more repetitive - lyrically - than "All I Want," so it is not quite as repeatable as the a-side single. But this track - which employs more piano than guitar - is sad and universal in a way that "All I Want" is not. While "All I Want" has a sentiment that ought to be universal, we seldom stand so directly before our partners and tell them "you need to treat me better."

The irony of this single is that "Those Days Are Over" is stripped of the poetics, when it is a song capturing something that could afford to be more poetic. Hoffs is more flowery when singing about being direct than she is about the complicated nature of a breakup on "Those Days Are Over."

So, the songs are good and if you're in an old record shop and see this in the cheap bin, by all means, buy it. But if you're part of the whole "collector's rarity breeds value" thing and can only find this through the obscure, high-priced places hold off. There has to be somewhere that has a digital download of both songs at reasonable prices.

For other singles, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
“I Want You” – Sophie B. Hawkins
“Little Bird” – Annie Lennox
“Waterfalls” – TLC


For other music reviews, please visit my Music Index Page for an organized list!

© 2012, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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