Saturday, January 19, 2013

Indistinct Etheridge: An Unimpressive Secret - Your Little Secret

The Good: Some of the lyrics and music
The Bad: Most of the songs leave absolutely no impression
The Basics: In a disappointing outing, Melissa Etheridge sells a LOT of Your Little Secret based on the strength of one single.

Your Little Secret, Melissa Etheridge's upbeat follow-up to her six-times platinum album Yes I Am is what I shall politely refer to as a "coasting work." I was somewhat astonished to learn that Your Little Secret is tied with her debut in the U.S. for top sales. Having listened to the album repeatedly now several times, I'm left with one of two conclusions: it coasted on the success of Yes I Am or the American c.d. buying public is so fickle in its tastes as to be called tasteless. Your Little Secret lacks the force of "Melissa Etheridge," the angst of Breakdown (which followed it), the surprising strength of Never Enough or even the sheer singles recognition of Yes I Am. I strongly suspect the sales strength of Yes I Am had more to do with the anticipation following Yes I Am and the strength of the first successful single from the album, "I Want To Come Over" (which, unsurprisingly, is the only track from Your Little Secret to make it on The Road Less Traveled).

The nice thing is that now it's easier to see the results of Etheridge's post-fame outing without the hype. Your Little Secret is a ten-track album that presents the artful rock and roll of Melissa Etheridge. I call it "artful" because Melissa Etheridge remains a true artist on Your Little Secret, writing (or co-writing) the lyrics and music to all ten tracks as well as co-producing the album. She provides the vocals and electric or acoustic guitar on each track. In short, she is an artist expressing herself at every step of the creative process, maintaining her vision for her music. That is very respectable.

And Etheridge is an exceptional artist. Her lyrics are expressive and some tell stories in a folk tradition (though her music is solidly rock and roll). Poetics like "1:25 a.m. I thought that you were headed for the door / Then something touched my skin / I won't ask you to leave here anymore / Was it the talk or the drink or the dance that led to this / Was I so naive presuming the innocence / Well it's 1:54 and it's such an unusual kiss. . " are seldom found from mainstream artists. Etheridge's level of diction is high, her emotional expressiveness is unique and her poetics are easily some of the best coming from anyone who is charting as high as she is with her albums and singles.

And while that is a pretty solid general rule for Melissa Etheridge and her writing on Your Little Secret, this is the first album of hers that I've listened to where there was a conspicuously problematic set of lines. On the single Your Little Secret, Etheridge declares ". . . But one and one and one / Baby makes three. . ." It's not that "Come Together" (by The Beatles) owns the phrase "one and one and one . . .makes three," but it's such a distinctive line there that here it just falls flat.

And part of that is the fault of the music. To return to "An Unusual Kiss," a remarkably well-written rock track, the song does not match the passion or curiosity or intrigue of the lyrics. The song is quiet through the opening, then becomes almost desperate with musical force at the lines "Come on come on come on / Over and over . . ." The song is a song about being seduced (fairly willingly) and how a kiss evolves into something more. And it does not sound that way. The music and lyrics do not fit to compliment one another and the result is a track that is ultimately a musical disappointment.

The only truly balanced song on the album is "I Want To Come Over," which is direct, forceful, longing and demanding for attention. From the opening notes, "I Want To Come Over" is expressive and powerful about the desires of the protagonist of the song. It works and it is rightfully one of Melissa Etheridge's greatest hits.

But the overarching problem of Your Little Secret is that the majority of the songs follow the same format as each other. They almost all start out quiet, semi-articulate (though some are completely articulate during the quiet portion) minimally musical and then they transform abruptly into loud guitars, shouting voice and wailings ("I Could Have Been You" is the archetypal song on Your Little Secret). The contrast might work on the occasional track, but this is the constant jerking around of the listener's ear on Your Little Secret that is more troubling than musical.

In short, it's hard to sell this album even to someone who has been listening to a lot of Melissa Etheridge albums lately and enjoying them. Etheridge has done better and here the best track is on her greatest hits album and there's little else on this album to listen for. A far better use of your time and money would be Breakdown by Melissa Etheridge.

The best track is "I Want To Come Over," the weakest is "I Could Have Been You."

For other works by Melissa Etheridge, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
Melissa Etheridge
Brave And Crazy
Never Enough
Yes I Am
Nowhere To Go (single)
The Road Less Traveled: The Best Of Melissa Etheridge
The Awakening
A New Thought For Christmas
Fearless Love


For other album and singles reviews, be sure to check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing.

© 2013, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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