Tuesday, July 3, 2012

It May Be Her Most Enduring Hit, But "As I Lay Me Down" (The C.D. Single) Flops!

The Good: Two decent songs
The Bad: Terrible use of medium, No alternate renditions
The Basics: Two good songs leave me still unable to recommend "As I Lay Me Down," the c.d. single, because both songs are identical to the album cuts!

Sophie B. Hawkins is a musical artist who is many things to many people. Despite the relative success of her first single, "Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover," her actual enduring success came with the release of her second album, Whaler. Truth be told, it didn't even come there. After languishing on the shelves for almost a year, Columbia Records did a "Hail Mary" on Hawkins's career and released a second single from Whaler, "As I Lay Me Down." Instead of trying to make it a pop-rock hit, though, they let the single go where it would take root. It turned out that while Hawkins would only have mediocre charting success on the Top 40 charts, she would rise to the top of the Adult Contemporary charts. And once there, Hawkins remained at the top with "As I Lay Me Down" for a record-setting run (her endurance record on the charts was beaten shortly thereafter by Leanne Rimes, though).

So, as I eliminate the driftwood of my c.d. collection (one of the nice things about having an iPod now to free up all sorts of shelf space), I was surprised when anything by Sophie B. Hawkins did not make my cut. And yet, "As I Lay Me Down" the two-track single was easy to donate out. The reason for this is ridiculously simple: there is nothing new on this disc that one cannot get on Whaler. And Whaler is an album I would enthusiastically recommend over and over again before advising anyone cut the album down to just these two songs!

With only two songs occupying less than ten minutes worth of space on a single c.d., "As I Lay Me Down" illustrates well the talents and musical vision of Sophie B. Hawkins, but is a terrible use of the c.d. medium. The album includes the title track and "I Need Nothing Else," both of which were written by Sophie B. Hawkins. Hawkins provides the primary vocals and plays the keyboards on each track as well. In fact, the only thing Hawkins was not involved with on these songs was the production.

Both songs on this album are love songs and Hawkins has a great voice for love songs. On "As I Lay Me Down," she holds notes long and slow for the more somber and sleepy ballad. She has a great range that goes from alto to soprano and she illustrates great vocal control for a pop-rock artist (or any musical artist). Conversely, on "I Need Nothing Else," she is energetic, a little lower and the up-tempo song has a more saucy quality to it. Still, on both songs, Hawkins enunciates beautifully, making her lyrics easy to understand. Her voice - having heard her perform live several times - is beautiful and the production elements used in the song do not alter her natural voice.

On both tracks, she plays piano or keyboards and Hawkins has both decent musical writing skills and playing proficiency. "As I Lay Me Down" has an instantly recognizable instrumental accompaniment and "I Need Nothing Else" has a bold tune that is very memorable. Hawkins plays both songs with appropriate energy and sadness and it is clear that she has a gift for emoting through her musical instrument.

As well, it is clear that Hawkins has something to say. "As I Lay Me Down" is a romantic ballad and it is softer and sweeter and Hawkins keeps it simple with lines like "It's not too near for me / Like a flower I need the rain / Though it's not clear to me / Every season has its change / And I will see you / When the sun comes out again / As I lay me down to sleep / This I pray / That you will hold me dear. . ." This is the closest to a jingle Hawkins ever created and it works because it has a loving lullaby quality to it that made it easy to stick in the listener's memory. Still, it has a decent sense of imagery to it.

But for imagery, it is hard to go with more than "I Need Nothing Else" has. That song is energetic and unabashed in its sexuality. When Hawkins sings, "'Cause I'd rather crawl home bleeding than be / Chained to you I love your freedom / Hate me need me love me tease me / Beg me please me take me breathe me / Baby you know I'm trouble still you / You wanna be the one to smash my bubble / How strong how tough how sweet how must / You feel to rough me up for real" ("I Need Nothing Else") it is easy to hear the passion in her voice and she rocks. The song is one of the few I've heard that is fearlessly sexual without sounding easy or skanky.

Still, two good songs are not enough to sell me on this. The reason for that is simple. Both of these songs appear on Whaler, which is easy to find on the market for dirt cheap. There is no difference between the versions on this single and the album versions and as a result, I say "support a genuine artist!" Pick up Whaler instead and get more for your money!

For other works by Sophie B. Hawkins, please check out my reviews of:
"Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover" (single)
Tongues And Tails
"I Want You" (single)
"Right Beside You" (single)
The Cream Will Rise (documentary)
Live! Bad Kitty Board Mix


For other music reviews, be sure to check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

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