Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I Was So Excited To Get A Nina Gordon C.D., But After Bleeding Heart Graffiti, I'm Not.

The Good: Moments of voice, One or two of the lyrics
The Bad: Inane pop sound, A lot of repetition and dull lyrics, Overproduced vocals.
The Basics: Repetitive and droll, Bleeding Heart Graffiti disappoints a listener who loves female pop-rock artists and was looking forward to getting into Nina Gordon!

Some years back, I was listening to the radio program "New Hits Now" and I was blown away by a song they played. I was absolutely convinced it would be a huge hit and it would make Nina Gordon a household name. The song was "Tonight And The Rest Of My Life" (reviewed here!) and it was unlike anything else that was on the radio at the time and it charted, but not high enough for Gordon to even be legitimately considered a one-hit wonder. As luck would have it, my brother had just won the single from a radio station days before and when I put two and two together, I gladly accepted his offer for it. So, I've spent years listening to a crappy single of "Tonight And The Rest Of My Life," the single. And as I've searched for new artists to enjoy, it wasn't until this week that I actually found a Nina Gordon c.d.

So, when I picked up Bleeding Heart Graffiti, I was excited. I did not know a single song on the album (this is not the album "Tonight And The Rest Of My Life" is on) and I've been looking for new female artists who I might find engaging. This album did not do that. After five listens, I was crushed because the album was nowhere near as good as I hoped it might be. Instead, this was mediocre pop-rock and much of it was just inane pop that was so common as to be disturbing. In fact, it was only after the eighth listen to Bleeding Heart Graffiti that I found enough merit in it to knock it up to two-stars. I suppose it wore me down.

With fourteen tracks, coming in at 47:35, Bleeding Heart Graffiti is a work that seems to be a combination of the vision of Nina Gordon and Warner Bros. Records. Gordon wrote or co-wrote all of the songs on the album. As well, she provides all of the lead vocals. However, there her involvement seems to end; Nina Gordon is not credited with playing any instruments on Bleeding Heart Graffiti and she has no production credit on the album. The result is a musical endeavor that does not seem to be all Nina Gordon's musical vision. Or if it is, that vision is nowhere near as impressive as I once hoped it would be.

Bleeding Heart Graffiti is a boring album musically. Indeed, if one had to define "piano-driven pop music," "Kiss Me 'Til It Bleeds" would be the perfect song for that. That "Turn On Your Radio" sounds so much like it is disturbing. Moreover, "Suffragette" sounds like it could have been made by Huey Lewis and the News and while I like them, it's not a sound that fits the lyrics well. As well, the album opens weakly on the title track which is a short song that leads into "Christmas Lights" which is a pretty saccharine pop song.

As well, most of the tracks follow the same basic format. This leads to a somewhat homogenous sound throughout the album, despite the use of guitars and pianos alternately. This homogenous quality comes from the percussion. The drums come in with such calculated precision in each and every song that it's hard to believe they weren't produced in. Songs like "Don't Let Me Down" sound like a boring reincarnation of the works of Aimee Mann. And largely, the instrumentals are so overproduced that track to track is sounds more like Gordon is accompanied by a computer than actual instruments ever played by humans.

Lyrically, the album is fairly problematic as well. Nina Gordon seems especially plagued by some of the most predictable rhymes I've yet heard. She strings together lines with meaning, but so many of them have a singsong quality to the rhyme scheme that it quickly becomes tiresome and predictable to listen to. There are only so many times one can hear "I'm stupid, a sucker, he's a loaded gun / A lover, a leaver, just a hit and run / When our worlds collide breathe deep and hold on tight / Cause he's so rock and roll, I'm a tortured soul with him in my bones / And he leaves me shattered like a rolling stone / I'm gonna hang myself on someone else, use just enough rope / I know he's bad news but I can't say no / If bitter is sweet then he's just what I need / So kiss me 'till it bleeds" ("Kiss Me 'Til It Bleeds") before it loses all impact and sounds more like a tween's concept of love and relationships.

Most of Nina Gordon's songs on Bleeding Heart Graffiti are about relationships and the angst that comes with them. The songs contain familiar and obvious concepts like the desire to return to innocence for a lover ("Pure") and the feeling of loss at the end of a relationship ("When You Don't Want Me Anymore"). On "Watercolors," she lays out the concept of "I'm happiest when I'm blue / Keep me bleeding like watercolors" rather quickly and then repeats it a lot. The song uses a number of the most obvious rhymes in pop rock (fool/school, etc.) and then repeats them a lot.

In fact, one of the real death knells of the album is just how repetitive the album is. Gordon seems to have a basic idea for each song and she makes her points real quick, then pretty much collapses with them as she struggles to fill out the rest of the song. The result is virtually every song on the album repeats itself a lot. Even the best track, "Turn On Your Radio" suffers from this. Gordon has a pretty great and direct concept, but after the first refrain, the song stumbles and she fills with more awkward bridges like "Don't know where you are tonight / If there is someone sleeping by your side / But I'm gonna write it with my airplane in your sky / And you're gonna read it on a billboard when you're driving by" before returning to the solid, if repetitive, refrain of "Turn on your radio and listen to these words as I repeat them / You have lost me, yeah, you have lost me" ("Turn On Your Radio"). The result is ultimately the album becomes agonizing to listen to.

The repetitive quality is accented by vocals that are track to track unwavering in their style. Gordon has a decent enough voice, she seems most comfortable in the alto range and she articulates well, but all of the songs have the same earnest, straightforward vocals that stick very safely in that range. As a result, vocally the album is ridiculously stagnant. As well, her vocals are enhanced on most every track by production elements that give the album a rather generic, homogenous sound that is troubling to those of us who listen to a lot of music.

Ultimately, it's hard to muster up more about "Bleeding Heart Graffiti;" the album is boring and what talent Nina Gordon has seems to be shot quickly on this album. The repetitive nature of the vocals, lyrics and instrumentals make it a pretty terrible album as far as replayability goes. Fortunately, I'm now done with it and may move on.

The best track is "Turn On Your Radio," the weak track among a collection of pretty lousy other songs is "Bones And A Name."

For other pop-rock albums by female artists, please check out my reviews of:
A Fine Frenzy - One Cell In The Sea
Dido - No Angel
Fergie - The Dutchess


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

© 2013, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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