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­A whole lot of covers, not enough innovation

Dancing Queen leaves you wishing that Cher had come up with her own music instead of revisiting these familiar, beloved classics; a singer with Josh Groban’s vocal talents can create something much mo

­A whole lot of covers, not enough innovation

 Album Review

Dancing Queen leaves you wishing that Cher had come up with her own music instead of revisiting these familiar, beloved classics; a singer with Josh Groban’s vocal talents can create something much more impressive than Bridges; Wouldn’t It Be Great may not be as exciting but it proves yet again that the return of Loretta Lynn is always good for the country genre.

 

Artist: Cher

Album: Dancing Queen**

Have you ever wanted to hear Cher do ABBA karaoke? Then you’re in luck, because the singer has released not a single, not an EP, but an entire darn album of ABBA covers. Unimaginative, uninventive ABBA covers. Naturally her fans will love every minute of it.

Musical projects don’t get any lazier than Dancing Queen. The American singer has delivered faithful renditions of 10 of the Swedish group’s best-known songs without employing any imagination or creativity in the process. The arrangements remain more or less the same for much of the record. Just replace Agnetha and Frida’s sweet, sugary harmonies with Cher’s deep, gravelly voice and that’s about it.

Effort hasn’t even gone into the song selection. The singer didn’t dig into the ABBA vaults to rediscover some forgotten gems and then reinterpret them. No. These are the Scandinavian group’s biggest hits – ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)’, ‘SOS’, ‘Waterloo’, ‘Mamma Mia’ – the ones you’ve heard countless times before and that have been re-sung by just about every other pop artist on the planet already. Heck, we just got a whole album worth of these covers mere months ago in the form of the (marginally more enjoyable) soundtrack to the film Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (Cher’s pointless appearance in which led to this pointless set).

Dancing Queen basically just leaves you wishing that Cher – who has an impressive back catalogue of original songs that are much better suited to her voice – had come up with her own music instead of revisiting these familiar, beloved classics. There are moments on this record where Cher’s vocals do work well with the tracks, particularly on the more poignant songs like ‘One of Us’ which she imbues with tender heartache. But the fact that her delivery simply doesn’t improve on the pop perfection that is the original material clearly doesn’t seem to matter to anyone involved with this project.

But this is Cher and she is an icon and she can do whatever she wants and her ardent admirers will still love it, no matter how uninspired it may be. So yes, they will love Dancing Queen too. Recommended to fans of campy nostalgia, excessive use of vocoders, and utter pointlessness.

Highlights: ‘One of Us’

 

Artist: Josh Groban

Album: Bridges***

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Speaking of unnecessary covers, there are three in Josh Groban’s new album Bridges. The operatic pop singer offers his take on Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’, Snow Patrol’s ‘Run’, and Celine Dion’s ‘S’il suffisait d’aimer’, but none surpass the originals or add anything exciting to his record.

The rest of Bridges, more promisingly, gives us new material, co-written by Groban with the help of several songwriters, primarily Bernie Herms and Toby Gad. But while there are a few lovely melodies on the album (‘River’, ‘Won’t Look Back’), the ballads here are mostly very safe and unexceptional. This is a collection of well-made, pleasant tracks that are nonetheless quite bland. The only song that really stands out is ‘Musica del Corazon’ which owes much of its flavour to the brilliance of Spanish virtuoso guitarist Vicente Amigo, although it does feel a little out of place on this otherwise beige set.

Other guests on the record include Andrea Bocelli on the classical crossover ‘We Will Meet Once Again’, Jennifer Nettles who appears on the duet ‘99 Years’, and Sarah McLachlan who sings on the aforementioned Snow Patrol cover.

Groban’s powerful voice is still special and his ability to sing in various languages – English, French, Italian, Spanish – is endlessly impressive, but his work is too safe, and given how saturated the adult contemporary landscape has become, his style just isn’t unique anymore. A singer with Groban’s vocal talents can create something much more impressive than Bridges if he’d just be willing to get out of his comfort zone and take a few risks.

Highlights: ‘River’, ‘Musica del Corazon’, ‘Won’t Look Back’

 

Artist: Loretta LynnAlbum: Wouldn’t It Be Great***1/2

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The queen of country music has decided to revisit some of her own classics on her forty first (!) album Wouldn’t It Be Great, a mixture of new songs as well as new versions of some of her old hits.

Postponed last year while the 86-year-old recovered from health issues – a stroke, a fractured hip – the record finally hit shelves last week and shows just why Lynn is one of the most successful country musicians of all time.

Backed by fiddles and guitars, Lynn sings about loneliness (‘I’m Dying for Someone to Live For’) and sorrow (‘These Ole Blues’), and offers some honky-tonk feistiness (‘Ruby’s Stool’) on the new tracks which showcase her songwriting prowess and her strength as a compelling storyteller. She also delivers updates on some of her older tunes, including the autobiographical ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ and the cheeky ‘Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’’ and while some of the revivals feel a bit redundant, there are other – like the stellar title track – that benefit from the revisit.

Produced by her daughter Patsy Lynn Russell and Johnny Cash’s son John Carter Cash, Wouldn’t It Be Great, may not be as exciting as the 2004 Jack White-produced masterpiece Van Lear Rose, but it proves yet again that the return of this country legend is always good for the genre that has been overshadowed by its tepid pop offshoot.

Highlights: ‘Wouldn’t It Be Great?’, ‘I’m Dying for Someone to Live For’, ‘Another Bridge to Burn’

Sameen Amer

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