Well, this is awkward. Music Mom is engaged—make that embroiled—in a difference of opinion with the New York Times. I’m not even sure how it got to this point. It’s about music, of course, because is there really anything else that raises ire or elicits the kind of emotion that music does? Occasionally kids do, but not in this case. Actually, there is a slight possibility the NYT is not even aware of our battle, although I’m sure it will all become very public after this post.
Rewind a month or so. My sister, a veritable aficionado about all things related to the Rolling Stones, sent me an email asking me if I was excited about the new supergroup, aptly named SuperHeavy. This required a quick Google search since I had never heard of them. I quickly learned that the group was comprised of five members: Mick Jagger (no explanation needed about who that is), Joss Stone (a British R&B diva, a cute blond with a voice to rival Mavis Staples), Dave Stewart (“the guys with Annie Lennox in the Eurythmics”; quite honestly I didn’t know he could even talk, much less sing), Damian Marley (son of Bob and as reggae as the rest of his famous family) and A.R. Rahman (best known for scoring the “Slumdog Millionaire” soundtrack). An intriguing group of individuals.
I purchased the group’s first single, “Miracle Worker,” and loved the sound. Yesterday when the entire album was released, I completely forgot about my new resolve to only acquire free music and bought the whole album. I have listened to it a number of times and with the exception of only a couple songs I am quite smitten with it. Today I excitedly sent aforementioned sister a note telling her how much I like “SuperHeavy” (band name, album name and song name- points off for redundancy, I suppose). And that’s when my bubble burst.
My sister sent me a review of “SuperHeavy” from the New York Times in which the reviewer, as she put it, “shredded” the album. Rather than immediately disagree with that review, my first inclination was that maybe I was “wrong” in my assessment of the album (not that you can really have a wrong opinion about music- unless it’s different from mine, of course).
Ironically, I made some of the same observations as the NYT reviewer, which excited me since my real job that actually draws a paycheck has nothing to do with music. The NYT and I reached different conclusions, however. I’m highlighting some of the paper’s more egregiously erroneous conclusions, as well as my rebuttals, below:
NYT: “Mr. Jagger is the sun around which this thing spins: the spirit of much of the album — roots-reggae and R&B and arena rock and ballads — seems to descend from his duet collaborations in the 1970s and ’80s with Peter Tosh and Tina Turner.”
MM: First of all, how did Peter Tosh and Tina Turner get in there? I don’t even know what he’s talking about. I would also disagree with the assessment that the album revolves around Mick (“Mr. Jagger”). There are many tracks where you can barely hear Jagger, and one of the reasons I like the album is because of the diversity of the songs. Who wants to listen to Mick Jagger sing on every track? For that he would just convene his cronies and put out another Stones album, not go to the trouble of finding these fresh-faced starlets.
NYT: “An almost total lack of good songs constitutes the album’s basic problem. Once that’s understood, the record becomes sort of entertaining: gaudy, vacuous, densely mannered.”
MM: Well, that first part is harsh. I’m not entirely clear what a “gaudy” or “densely mannered” song sounds like, and if we’re going to nitpick about songs being vacuous, that is just about going to put the Black Eyed Peas out of business. I’m so glad the reviewer can stoop to the level of these adjectives and be entertained by these songs on some level. I’m a simple gal, so my evaluation for the most part is that the songs are fun and enjoyable. I thought of using the Thesaurus to come up with better words than those, but then I’d be stooping to my opponent’s level.
NYT: “But Mr. Jagger is the source of the record’s best unintentional humor. He throws effort into this record, whining, yammering, imprecating, imitating himself fabulously.”
MM: Can we just agree that this guy sounds like a major grump?
NYT: “This is a polyglot record whose best song, the ballad “Never Gonna Change,” sounds the least like the rest of the tracks; it sounds as if it belongs on an early-’70s Stones record.”
MM: And that is the very reason why I didn’t like that particular song. The end.
There you have it, irrefutable evidence that the NYT reviewer missed the mark and this is, in fact, a very fun, diverse album. Yes, we do hear from Mick Jagger, but not more than Joss Stone or Damian Marley. Stone’s voice is a great accent to the male vocals, and the reggae sound pops up frequently, as does Rahman’s Indian influence.
Just buy the album and enjoy it. Doesn’t it all come down to whether you like listening to it or not? My guess is that you will. Let’s leave it at that without all the fancy words. Happy listening!
Filed under: Album Reviews