Love Makes the World
First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2007, Volume 14, #9
Written by John Metzger
Tue September 4, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
The problem with being a pop star is that in order to continue to score hits — and hence, to stay relevant — it is imperative to adopt and incorporate current trends into one’s work. When the flavor of the day is something pure — as it was when Carole King was writing songs alongside Gerry Goffin in the ’60s or when she unleashed her masterpiece Tapestry in the early ’70s — the results can be magical and timeless. On the other hand, when the market favors style over substance — as it has, almost without fail, since the disco era — the outcome can range from being diminished to being lifeless.
Carole King never really was a pop star, per se. As a member of the Brill Building syndicate, she surely helped to fuel the careers of many up-and-coming artists, and when she achieved fame on her own accord as a performer, she simply was a songwriter who became immensely popular. Why she insists on chasing trends instead of just being true to herself, is anyone’s guess, but over the course of the past 30 years, she has tried everything to fit in. More often than not, however, she also has missed the mark by a mile.
After a seven-year silence, King returned in 2001 with Love Makes the World. It was yet another album in a long line of attempted comebacks, and as was the case with its predecessors, King’s approach was suspiciously flawed. For starters, her decision to entice fans with a series of high-profile collaborators proves to have been a big mistake. With his muted trumpet accompaniment, Wynton Marsalis salvages the otherwise tepid arrangement that adorns I Wasn’t Gonna Fall in Love. Elsewhere, however, contributions from Steven Tyler, k. d. lang, and Babyface do little to elevate the material. Worst of all, King and Celine Dion fail to generate any chemistry on The Reason, an exceedingly dull, over-the-top ballad.
Love Makes the World’s other truly immense problem is the manner in which it was produced. On song after song, King loses sight of the organic, emotional honesty of her material, and the synthetic percussion and shimmering backing vocals that she repeatedly employs dilute her lyrics until they become sappy, manufactured clichés. Cuts like It Could Have Been Anyone and Safe Again sound too Disney-esque to resonate, and You Can Do Anything, a track about overcoming her own self-doubts that might have worked if it had been properly framed, seems destined to score a bad romantic comedy. Likewise, You Will Find Me There is a bland rewrite of her classic You’ve Got a Friend.
Nevertheless, there are hints that Love Makes the World had the potential to be a better outing. Throughout the endeavor, King’s sense of melody remains intact. By the same token, however, every time she stumbles upon something that works, she answers it with paint-by-numbers mediocrity. She sucks the life out of the title track, for example, by following the rhythmic, R&B-drenched drive of its verses with an overwrought, generic chorus. It’s telling that Love Makes the World’s only unequivocal success is King’s reworking of Oh No Not My Baby, a tune she penned with Goffin in the ’60s. Stripped bare to piano and a faint dusting of acoustic bass, the song finds King recapturing the intimate, sad yearning that made Tapestry such a masterpiece.
For what it’s worth, Love Makes the World recently was reissued as a deluxe, two-disc set. The first half of the collection features the original album, while the latter half contains an enhanced CD that includes two music videos, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and an interview with King. The new edition of the endeavor also boasts five bonus tracks, including the updated version of Where You Lead, I Will Follow that she lent to Gilmore Girls. Regardless of her generosity, all of the extras largely mirror the deficiencies of the album itself. ½
Love Makes the World: Deluxe Edition is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box