Thursday, December 20, 2012

How Did Justin Timberlake End Up Huge and Eagle-Eye Cherry End Up A One-Hit Wonder? Desireless

The Good: Good lyrics, Decent voice, Memorable music
The Bad: Some lame rhymes
The Basics: More than a one-hit wonder, Eagle-Eye Cherry's debut illustrates the birth of a true artist, who just never took the American mainstream. Our loss.

As a novelist who has written seven books, but only published teo, I certainly understand the difference between being successful as an artist and successful in a commercial sense. Often I find I am not alone as an artist whose talent is to create art, but is generally lousy on the business end. Artists are often not experts at self promotion. The irony is that this is the reason for the existence of agents, who an artist needs to sell themself to in order to get representation. It's a huge circle of damnation being an artist in a capitalist society. I mention this because, having listened to Desireless by Eagle-Eye Cherry three times now, I fail to understand how talented artists who manage to get work Out There fail. I blame the lame society that prioritizes the buying habits of 15 - 23 year old males over . . . well, people with taste.

Desireless is a twelve-track disc that marks the auspicious debut of singer-songwriter Eagle-Eye Cherry. Best known for the single "Save Tonight," Desireless produced the one hit and Cherry evaporated from the mainstream commercial recording scene. At least in the United States. Listening to the album, it's hard to see why.

Eagle-Eye Cherry creates a pop-rock that is best described as an articulate, light rock poetry that oscillates between Rob Thomas and Lenny Kravitz for sound. For those only familiar with the romantic ballad, "Save Tonight," they might be thrown listening to Desireless. Immediately following Cherry's most popular U.S. hit comes a song about debating whether or not to shoot a guy in the face ("Indecision"). Yeah, the album takes a weird turn.

In that way, Desireless comes across well as a collection of singles. This does not have the feeling of being a cohesive album, rather an assembly of works Eagle-Eye put together. But, to be fair to Eagle-Eye, he put the album together. All of the songs are written or co-written by Eagle-Eye, save the final track which was written by Eagle-Eye's father, Don Cherry. Eagle-Eye wrote all of the lyrics and he plays piano, keyboards, and acoustic guitar on various tracks. In short, this is a well-rounded musical artist, in every sense. This is HIS album, not someone else's, not something he is merely performing on.

And the thing is, this album illustrates that Cherry is talented. He writes generally well. In fact, he writes a surprisingly listenable track about depression that is one of the few articulate expressions of feeling down that one may listen to over and over again without feeling the urge to take their own life. On "Comatose (In The Arms Of Slumber)," Cherry articulates, "With pride and disdain I'm going to ignore this pain / When someone falls you're supposed to get up again / I try to oblige but I can't tonight . . ." Set to the soft guitars and organs, Cherry's smooth voice creates a concept worthy of empathy, not disdain or depression of one's own. We are sharing in his articulation of a too-common experience.

And for those who were hooked by "Save Tonight," the rest of the album shares much the same sound, though with variations in tempo. Some of the tracks are slower, like "Worried Eyes," which is a good slow dance number, and few of the tracks are faster than Cherry's signature hit. The point here is that stylistically, if one enjoys the song "Save Tonight," they will find the same clear articulation of poetry to music on Desireless.

What Eagle-Eye Cherry does very well from the beginning involves playing around with different instruments than the standard pop-rock artist. Cherry's music combines the traditional guitar, bass, piano and drums that make the mainstream sound with the sounds of the Didgeridoo, a Gnawan guitar, the cello and the trumpet. The result is less experimental than one might suspect from a young musical artist; the instruments fit the songs, so they work well and it feels like more a diverse musical experience than an experiment with different instruments.

Ironically, it is the guitar that causes the most musical problems for Eagle-Eye Cherry on Desireless. The limitations of the guitar come through with shocking clarity in that the opening chords of "Falling In Love Again" sound too much like "Save Tonight." Cherry writes diverse music for other instruments, but apparently not so much for the standard ones!

The only other serious drawback on Desireless is the rhyme schemes Cherry uses. Some of them are just brutally predictable. One of the more intriguing songs, "When Mermaids Cry," is nearly killed by the obviousness of the lines as Cherry sings, "Seagulls fly / When mermaids cry / Those tears won't dry / For Lorelei." This might not seem so bad, but it comes after more lines that rhyme with "Lorelei" and a string of rhymes to "sea" (me/she/be, etc.).

I suppose this gives a direction for Cherry to grow in. It's too bad the U.S. audiences did not open up to more from him. This debut had so much potential and is likely to be enjoyed by anyone who likes a soft rock sound.

The best track is the song of disillusionment, "Conversation," the weakest track is "Rainbow Wings."

For other alternative music works, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Cex Cells - Blaqk Audio
Comfort Eagle - Cake
The Uninvited - The Uninvited


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

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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