Sunday, June 30, 2013
From Borrowed to What Have I Done, Rimes delivers
Seventeen years after exploding on the music scene as a 13 year-old prodigy, LeAnn Rimes finally found her adult sound and style with her kickass new album, Spitfire. Don't let the tabloid bullshit fool you: LeAnn ain't no vapid, celebrity-bimbo, "has been" with nothing left in the tank.
Far from it.
LeAnn's voice is still strong as ever, but now she's become an even better singer. Being a 30 year old woman, she's got the self-awareness and maturity to bring more finessed, soulful, honest and authentic vocals. No gratuitous vocal gymnastics, no over-dramatizations, no over-singing, just perfect control of her instrument as she hits every note, from the bottom of her heart to the top of her range, with perfect pitch.
Of course, what makes Spitfire truly special and meaningful is how she bares her soul. Running the full gamut of conflicting emotions on decisions and actions she's made in her love life, LeAnn gives us a truly adult album rather than the typically cartoonish country formula music so prevalent today. I admittedly don't possess a huge country music catalog, but the album I own that most came to mind when I first heard Spitfire was Patty Loveless' When Fallen Angels Fly, which won CMA album of the year back in 1994.
If there's any justice, Rimes would win one of those in 2013 for Spitfire.
Without question, Borrowed and What Have I Done are the heart and soul songs of the album, and book-end two sides of the single most contentious, conflicting time of her adult life. The desperate, aching, longing for her new, forbidden love to blossom into full commitment (Borrowed), and the tortured regret of destroying her old love with this infidelity (What Have I Done). I don't know that I've ever seen an artist record two songs so beautiful, yet brutally honest and introspective over the same episode. One gets the impression she will never fully reconcile this self-inflicted trauma.
What's also impressive is that she doesn't try and make herself more sympathetic of a character. She gives her truest emotions and feelings, take it or leave it, no bullshit, leaving the listener free to judge her for the good, the bad and the ugly in her actions. The mature listener will appreciate what she's given to us as a true window into her soul, and in that sense a bird's eye view of the human condition. Whether we approve of her decisions and actions isn't really the point; it's about how deeply she elicits feeling in us for how she feels. She offers up a full confession, leaves herself completely vulnerable, and in the end I found myself wanting to hug her, tell her I understand, and offer her forgiveness and compassion if not approval.
That said, Spitfire is definitely not just a heavy, emotionally draining album that makes you sob. Filled with a variety of flirty, fun, uptempo songs like Spitfire (song), I Do Now, Gasoline and Matches and You Ain't Right, Rimes also shows she has a fun, spunky side with a playful sense of humor.
You've Ruined Me is a grooving number that seems very radio friendly. Where I Stood deals with the reality and frustrations of relationship life after the initial glow wears off, and likely reflects LeAnn's reality today. What will her tomorrow be like? Well, stay tuned for the next album.
Kenny Poo ranks Spitfire a must have album for not just country music fans, but all music fans. Of course, the small minds who live in the tabloid world will no doubt be quick to judge and lash out at LeAnn because of the general subject matter. Radio will also probably shun her, and that's a shame. Bottom line: This album is above them, so they can fuck off if they aren't capable or interested in appreciating the depth, quality, versatility and honesty of this record.