music

Song du semaine: Anna Nalick, "Shine"

Yes, it’s a current song. New territory here at MMM.

It’s so new that I don’t see an actual video for it yet, just a couple of things at YouTube. One is apparently an official release of some sort, though it’s just a bunch of pictures of the handwritten lyrics (with unfortunate apostrophe errors included). So as you’re reading, you can watch that or just listen at her official site.

Nalick’s breakthrough — spurred along by Grey’s Anatomy, proving that something good can come from that piece of dreck — was a few years removed from the Great Young Woman Invasion of 2000-2002. You remember those days — Michelle Branch, Vanessa Carlton and Avril Lavigne all hitting it big while a bunch of oppressive male critics lumped them all together. I have vague, possibly hazy memories of people claiming you couldn’t tell them apart, which is about like a critic in 1966 saying you can’t distinguish Roger Daltrey from Mick Jagger.

(Unrelated TV quiz: Name the show that made reference to “the Rolling Who.”)

All three of these women were tagged as “anti-Britneys” because they clearly took their music more seriously than their image, refusing to sell themselves as mere teen lust fodder. That was before Branch and Lavigne posed for Maxim. Carlton was apparently one of Jane‘s “11 people you’d most like to see naked,” which was an odd stance to take for a magazine allegedly marketed to young women. In any case, I don’t know of any evidence that she took anyone up on the “offer.”

And all three brought something different to the radio (or Launch player, in my case). Branch delved into several pop-rock styles, from overt Beatles references to modern dance beats. Carlton had sort of a retro piano-rock vibe. Lavigne was to postpunk rock as Liz Phair was to classic rock, recasting all the standard themes from a female perspective.

Not that they were polished and brilliant. All three needed some work on the lyrics. But they were far better than anything I was writing at age 17. I’m just glad YouTube wasn’t around when we recorded the R.E.M.-style video for Let’s Rock and Roll ‘Til We Get Herpes and Die. I always dreamed of being a rock star and was actually a little jealous of Debbie Gibson, but the 20 or so people who’ve heard the recordings of my high school “band” would surely tell me I made the right career choice. Sniff.

But instead of progressing, all three declined. Carlton’s later singles were listenable but not particularly memorable. Branch released a second album with several solid singles, married her bass player despite a rather substantial age difference, formed a country-ish duo and has a daughter who’s more than a year older than my second son. Lavigne, despite heading to the altar as well, seems to be getting younger, creating the unnerving duality of a tween-oriented signer flouting her sexuality from a magazine rack.

That leaves Nalick as the great hope for those of us who like to hear women on the radio and can’t wait an eternity between Sarah McLachlan albums. Those of you who have read this blog for more than 30 months know I have a soft spot in my heart for Nalick because she sang in a Rush cover band.

And she has the best voice of this group, by far. She puts it great use here. At times, she sounds like Kate Bush in places, but less pretentiously ethereal.

The lyrics aren’t bad, either.

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