A Music Critic Reviews His Ex-Wife’s New Solo Album.
BY MATT STOFSKY
This haunting ballad set the blogosphere on fire when it dropped in late September, cementing Janet’s status as an indie darling. The entire album was recorded in the home we shared for many years, creating a rich, warm sonic tapestry that draws you in immediately. We made French toast every Saturday in that house. It’s hard to believe that I am not even mentioned in this song. Listen for the unique reverb effect created by the walls of the breakfast nook.
We’ve seen Janet’s vocal range in the past, but she takes things to new heights on the album’s most stripped-down effort. This track deals with our sex life, and Janet spares no detail. From the unsettling description of my body to the no holds-barred revelations concerning my endurance and general aptitude, this one deserves a couple of listens. Pay special attention to the vocal solo where she mocks the noises I make when I climax.
A scathing takedown of my hopes and dreams, the third track on the album is definitely one of the standouts. Referencing our frequent deeply personal conversations about my career and self-image, she warbles, “You think you’re an artist / But you’re just a fucking writer.” Sounding like a young Patti Smith, Janet forgoes conventional lyrical structure in favor of a more provocative style. It works; I was furious upon hearing this track.
I hate to admit it, but this song is beautiful. Employing a host of exotic instruments, Janet evokes the verdant fields of central Italy in this ode to wine and leisure. The use of the theremin during the second chorus really took me for a ride. Choice lyrics include, “I’m finally free, I’m finally free / Oh, Tuscany / You set me free.” Although this track is not a direct slap in the face to me, it’s difficult for me not to think of our long-held plans to travel through Europe together.
A searing personal confession of infidelity, “Tom” punches you right in the gut, especially when you show up at “Tom’s” house to confront him. Backed by a powerful orchestral arrangement, Janet recounts an extended love affair that began a devastating two years before the divorce. Tom comes over to Janet’s house during the day, while her husband is home, wearing his noise-canceling headphones in his office. Listen to this one with a glass of wine, or if you’re me, a box of tissues and some mystery pills.
An obvious homage to Bowie, Janet infuses some Philadelphia Soul into this dancehall cut chronicling her rise in the music industry. I remember a time when she wasn’t so well-known, when we were just two kids trying to figure things out. Now she has everything figured out and I am writing about her. But not speaking to her. Did fame tear us apart? Maybe. Will “Fame” tear up FM radio this winter? Definitely.
“Because of You”
The title track is a blistering response to my many shortcomings. Over pounding drums and a relentless funk beat, Janet enumerates the various ways in which I failed to live up to her expectations. She takes me to task with lines like, “Never made music like you said you would / Never helped with the kids like you knew you should.”
In this crisp jam, Janet provides a light-hearted account of my attempt to win her back. I bought her favorite flower, orchids, and went to her new condo. She hugged me and said she’d been thinking about me and that she had made a huge mistake. Just when I thought I had her, Tom leapt out of the closet and shouted, “Gotcha!” Since they recorded the whole thing, Janet creatively uses Tom’s “Gotcha” sample as an insanely catchy chorus that I’ve been humming for weeks.
“Sign the Papers”
A direct appeal to me and an attempt to embarrass me on the national stage, Janet is demanding that I finalize the divorce in this upbeat closing track. I’m holding off for now, as I have a good feeling that she is going to change her mind. Janet kicks off a string of U.S. tour dates next week. I will be at every show, reminding her that I still love her. Check out all the upcoming reviews at my new website www.ICantDoThisAlone.com.
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