The Good: Decent lyrics, Sounds all right
The Bad: Short, Not a great use of the medium, Somewhat inane pop music
The Basics: Donna Lewis's best song from her debut is revealed as a mediocre single that can easily be passed up for the buy.
There is only so much one can write about a single song. With the c.d. single of “Without Love,” it is a true single, there are no additional tracks and that makes it very hard to write much about it.
Having reviewed Donna Lewis' debut album Now In A Minute (reviewed here!) and deemed "Without Love" the superlative track of the album, relistening to the single playing over and over and over again on repeat makes me think, "If this is the best she's got, do we really need Donna Lewis?" It's a question that's coming down to a coin toss for me.
With only a single track, clocking in at a scant 3:40, "Without Love" is a terrible use of the compact disc medium. The track could have been pressed onto this disc approximately twenty times over and for the expense of hunting down the single (if one chooses to do that), one is left wanting quite a bit more. But, to be fair, this is very much Donna Lewis's musical vision. She wrote the music as well as providing all of the vocals for it. As well, she plays keyboards for it and is credited as a co-producer on the disc.
For those who might not have heard "Without Love," this is an overproduced pop song that has a light sound defined by Donna Lewis's whispy voice. Lewis, perhaps most famous for the infectious single "I Love You Always Forever" followed up that hit with this much more subtle song. The first major problem is that Donna Lewis mumbles through many of the lyrics and her sugarpop voice is almost constantly produced over to obscure any sense of her actual voice. She might well have the most beautiful natural alto-soprano voice in history, but one would never know it because her vocals have been so range-shifted and computerized for this song that it is impossible to tell.
The net result is that Donna Lewis's vocals, which are compounded by echoes and accented by strategic strums on the electric guitar, are almost completely drown out or are fairly incomprehensible when they are present. She whispers through some of her most clear singing, which makes one wonder just what she is trying to do with her performance.
Because, at the end of the day, it does seem like Donna Lewis has something she wants to say. "Without Love" has a remarkably clear message and theme, but perhaps Lewis just doesn't like what the song has to say. "Without Love" is, after all, the only song from her debut that Lewis did not even co-write the lyrics to. Credited to Dave Taylor, "Without Love" does have some predictable rhymes, but it actually has a message that is quite honorable and well developed.
Is it possible, though, that Donna Lewis just objects to singing "Promises promises sealed with a kiss / Please acknowledged it's me that you miss / No message received / Excuses believed / You hurt me so much I'll never recover / Takes time to discover a love like no other" ("Without Love")? It would seem odd if she did; her own lyrics seldom have lines that are less predictable than that. And is it so bad to have an anthem that is essentially a woman crying out to be noticed, to be paid attention to? I think not!
Moreover, Lewis's lyricist makes a fine point (albeit with predictable rhymes) when he writes the refrain that is still fairly catchy: "Without love I mean nothing to you / Without love broken in two / Without love give me some value some worth / Without love no life left on earth" ("Without Love"). It does not need to be repeated hundreds of times to make the point and it's a good point; love makes life worthwhile.
Unfortunately, "Without Love" is presented as a silly little pop song, so any potential gravitas the lyrics might have - if Lewis were to articulate them and not mumble through them at a high pitch - is pretty much lost amid the drum machine and bland keyboards. The guitars accent at intervals that act like a musical highlighter and the few crescendos are used to either accent mumbled lyrics or completely overwhelm them.
Ultimately, "Without Love" is a little pop song that does what little pop songs do; it distracts us for a few minutes with a catchy beat and melody, but this one doesn't stick long after the last spinning of the disc. And if it's the best Donna Lewis has, perhaps it's not necessary to keep her works in one's collection. Even though this might be her best song, it's hard to get excited about buying this single. Better to wait for it on the odd chance it'll pop up on the radio; owning it is just unnecessary.
For other pop works, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Susannah Hoffs - Susannah Hoffs
World Clique - Deee-Lite
White Turns Blue - Maria Mena
Check out how this stacks up against others albums and singles by visiting my Music Review Index Page where the reviews are organized best to worst!
© 2012, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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