First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2005, Volume 12, #8
Written by John Metzger
It isn’t the file-sharers who are suffocating the music business; the industry is killing itself. There was a time when new talent was discovered, nurtured, and developed so that those who survived achieved long-term success. Although marketing always was a part of the equation, talent frequently held the upper hand. Over the course of the past 35 years, however, things have changed dramatically, and packaging is now more important than content. With the dawning of reality television and the explosion of Star Search-style programming such as American Idol and Nashville Star, the labels have taken yet another shortcut in their pursuits to enhance their respective financial positions. However, by signing their latest hit-makers from the endless stream of amateur pop tarts that are paraded in front of the unsuspecting, celebrity-worshiping public, "artists" are now being treated like disposable commodities. It matters less whether the contestants can sing or write songs. They’re on television, and therefore, they’re the latest, greatest thing. While this scheme generates cash flow for the short term, the longer range implications are potentially disastrous, especially considering that 18 months later, the newly coronated inevitably become a passing fad, and stardom’s circle of life repeats itself with a new slate of contenders.
In this regard, Miranda Lambert is just the latest in a long line of reality-bred personalities to be embraced by the star-seeking music industry. She recently placed third on Nashville Star, the USA network’s answer to American Idol, and not surprisingly, Kerosene, her debut, subsequently shot to the top of the country charts. Unlike most prefabricated celebrities, however, there is more to Lambert than one initially might expect. Without a doubt, her fame was derived from a carefully orchestrated marketing campaign, but standing in sharp contrast to almost all of her counterparts, the 21-year-old Texan actually has talent. Not only does Lambert pen her own material, but she also has the wherewithal to deliver it with a strikingly potent level of down-to-earth sincerity.
Falling somewhere between Sheryl Crow and Dolly Parton, Lambert utilizes a formula that holds tremendous crossover appeal, and her songs — which range from the honky-tonk intonations of I Can’t Be Bothered to the infectious folk-pop of Me and Charlie Talking to the somber introspection of Greyhound Bound for Nowhere — fold together to form a remarkably impressive debut. In fact, among Kerosene’s 12 tracks, there are only two total clunkers — the bland ballads Bring Me Down and There’s a Wall. Throughout the rest of the outing, she presents an irresistible blend of polish and grit, which seems to indicate that Lambert’s fame may last for far more than the 15 minutes that customarily are awarded to reality show offshoots.
Kerosene is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box