Volume 92, Issue 99
Wednesday, April 7, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Blur escapes to a sonic masterpiece
After initially listening to Blur's latest release 13 one is not exactly sure what they've just heard.
After perfecting the art of sarcastic and cocky Brit-pop with albums like 1994's The Great Escape, Blur seemed more inclined to follow the lead of the American alterna-rock scene, found on their self-titled fifth album.
This perceived direction makes 13 all the more puzzling. Reportedly inspired by lead singer Damon Albarn's breakup with long time romance Justine Frischmann of Elastica, Blur's latest has a cathartic, overwhelming sense of emotion and passion running throughout. Running the gauntlet from the gospel chants of "Tender" to the electric beeps and bleeps of "B.L.U.R.E.M.I.," the album is Blur's richest and most complicated offering to date.
For this reason, 13 has little chance of gaining the wide acclaim among the masses it most certainly deserves. Fans in search of the three-minute pop song will be roundly disappointed with the inaugural track, "Tender," which is a seven and a half minute masterpiece. From there, the album harkens back to the Blur of old with the guitar thrashing of "Bugman" and the poppy quirkiness of "Coffee & TV."
From the fifth song in, however, 13 is filled with soulful ballads and electric experimentation. Lagging only minimally at times, the second half of the album is highlighted by "No Distance Left To Run." An early candidate for Blur's next single, "No Distance" is the perfection which lies between the beauty of a three and a half minute pop song and the majesty of an epic masterpiece.
In the end, 13 is a departure from the quick fix of much of today's pop. It is a full course buffet which must be savoured and is not fully appreciated until you've gone back for seconds and thirds. An early candidate for album of the year, it gives fellow Brit artists Radiohead and Oasis a standard to shoot for with their upcoming releases.
In the refreshingly alternative R&B universe of Ginuwine, life is not all about money, ice and courting materialistic women. In his newest release, 100% Ginuwine, this love-seeking Lothario branches off from his brutally simplistic brethren to sing about something much more complex relationships.
Fresh off his platinum plus 1996 debut album Ginuwine the Bachelor Elgin Lumpkin (a.k.a. Ginuwine) has once again teamed up with his producer guru, the ubiquitous Timbaland, to produce a stellar effort. The entire album chronicles Ginuwine's various difficulties with the opposite sex, depicting them not as mindless Barbie dolls on which to hang jewelry, but as complex, vindictive and amazing creatures.
The mood fluctuates quickly during the course of the album, from desperate vying for his woman's affection and trust on "None Of Ur Friend's Business," down to fierce vindication on "Two Sides To Every Story."
It is on "Final Warning," featuring Aaliyah, where Ginuwine seems to find someone he can lovingly spar with, at least on a verbal level. With a sound much like Aaliyah's own recent hit, "Are You That Somebody?" (also Timbaland-produced), the duo playfully indulge in a bit of verbal foreplay which unleashes the best of their vocal assets.
The best characteristic of Ginuwine is his ability to respect his lyrics. Unlike other R&B crooners out there today (think Keith Sweat, Johnny Gill and especially R. Kelly), Ginuwine sings a song genuinely, without trampling all over its framework.
The album's final track "She's Out Of My Life," first sung by his idol Michael Jackson, is a perfect example of this. Whereas the "gloved one" took the sobbing, moaning route in this ballad to a lost love, Ginuwine brings more of an understated sorrow to his rendition, by working every single syllable to his emotional advantage. Through his clear and direct delivery, he manages to convey a much more honest interpretation of heartbreak than Macaulay Culkin's former pal ever could.
Even after unleashing such a turbulent emotional storm on his listeners, he still manages to convey some sense of optimism for the concept of love in the album's various interludes.
No matter what has happened in the past, Ginuwine seems to still be searching for his Miss Right, but having a great time doing it.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999