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CD REVIEW: Courtney Love - 'America's Sweetheart'
By Steve Allat - 03/24/2004 - 03:07 PM EST

Artist: Courtney Love
Album: 'America's Sweetheart'
CD Review: Label: Virgin Records
Tracks: 12
Released: 2004
For Fans Of:: Courtney Love & Hole, the Distillers, Disturbed
Fav Tracks: Sunset Strip, Uncool, Zeplin Song

As one who bears the appearance of being very much in control of her destiny, her image and her marketing, I wonder if Courtney Love has forgotten a couple important things about us music lover's - that we're easily bored and that we're not hard of hearing. Then again, does she really care? Should she?

The self-annointed sweetheart belts her way through 12 new tracks in an attempt to clue us in to what she's been thinking about lately. In this short list - matches, god, fire, sex, ego, love, pain, fame, life, death, more fire - you can easily get the picture. It seems that 'inside Courtney' has been a very happy place, and whether we like it or not, she's let it all out, slicked it up a bit, put a pretty face on the cover and given us . . . ???

A few catchy tunes, but an otherwise dronish selection of songs that harbour the same feeling time and time again. I'm sure a lot of America and especially America's youth can relate, but I'm not so sure I'd want them listening to Courtney even if they do. Why? Because there wouldn't be a point to that, other than to keep Courtney right where she likes to be (and hasn't been for a while) - at the center of the universe. You ARE the center of your universe Courtney, and now we all are thoroughly aware, as these unselfconscious songs attest.

Kudos to you for pushing a few limits along the way, though - something we all thoroughly need. Honest artistic expression can be . . . a lot of screaming, and there's nothing wrong with that.

I feel more psycho-analsyst than music critic in attempting to analyze 'America's Sweetheart', as it is infinitely more interesting to try to understand the person behind the songs than it is to understand the songs themselves. They can be summed up in a few words: loud, grungy, hooky, primal, melodic - repeat. There is an intensity to the album that borders on frightening - Is Courtney trying to scare herself awake! I hope so, because after a few listens, it sounds like pretty standard fare to me.

The entire CD also sounds, ironically, like it's too controlled. The singing, screaming, slurring and other vocalizing is dying to paint outside the lines, but it seems like she's either imposed limits on herself for her co-songwriters' sake or for the radio. Anything more than what she delivers would have been more deserving of the vocal stance she tries to take. I fear the artist in her meeting the attention-seeking egomaniac inside is responsible for the chaotic state we often find her singing about. Unfortunately for us, the egomaniac has prevailed.

At the same time, Courtney does cross the line enough on a few occasions to serve up what could be considered a couple rock/pop radio anthems, namely 'Mono', and 'The Zeplin Song' (and close behind, 'Sunset Strip' and 'Uncool)'. So, no matter what I say, you WILL be hearing Miss Love in your neighbourhood in the days to come. The cover artwork alone should sell quite a few copies. Great style there, as with the whole outer package. I would have liked to have heard a few songs by the poser on the cover . . . there must be a soft-side to temper the angst of love & life. Dare I even say, a singer inside? Or . . . is the truth supposedly inside the pretty pink and white packaging?

Lyrical shock value and musical homogeneity aside (the musical cast is barely given credit for their effort, but then as it all sounds so similar and they are truly cast in a supporting role, it almost fits), I can only recommend 'America's Sweetheart' to those with an affinity for her music, for pop culture and it's vices or as a raucous backdrop for an aggression-letting good time. For those who are thus inclined, this CD will grow on you.

One interesting note - I smelled a little Teen Spirit on 'I'll Do Anything' (an homage?). A sure sign of an artist unsure of her own sound, even though she is supported this time by the likes of Linda Perry and Bernie Taupan in establishing a musical backdrop for her lyrics. What their contribution is beyond creating a wall of sound, I can't really tell. I think I would prefer Courtney all by herself, creating honest music, rather than this middle-of-the-road safe schlock they have come up with.

What is apparently lacking in the music, Courtney tries to make up for by leaning on others, name dropping (Julian from the Strokes, Page & Plant, Eminem, and so on) and dramatizing the ordinary. I guess Courtney the celebrity is the only Courtney we're supposed to know and love. I'm really not into the whole facade, so the music just sounds the same to me in the end.

You can do better than this, Miss Love. Such an original character as yourself can surely spawn something worthy of our attention without condescending to formula-driven rock spoon-fed to the masses. Then again, in Courtney-land, it seems that any attention is good attention. This isn't really all about the music, is it?

And finally, as Courtney says, please support artists by downloading your copies legally:
Music From EMI

After all, we do want her to put out another CD with great artwork and a beautiful package again next time, don't we America?

This review was done by request from:

Websites: Courtney Love - America's Sweetheart, Virgin Records

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