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Lisa Marie Presley - Now What Print E-mail
Tuesday, 05 April 2005

Lisa Marie Presley

Now What
format: 16-Bit Stereo CD
label: Capitol
release year: 2005
performance: 6
sound 5.5
reviewed by: Paul Lingas

Image Lisa Marie Presley follows her gold-selling debut album To Whom It May Concern with Now What. Realizing that she doesn’t just have to ride out the storm of her already celebrated and studied life, Presley takes her follow-up effort too seriously at times, with mixed results. The first 20 seconds of “I’ll Figure It Out” are pretty decent, in fact it was all good until she started singing. Why does she feel she needs to sound all emotive and rough when she sings? You want to tell her to just use her natural voice, which actually can sound nice, as evidenced in later tracks. Instead, there is this gruff, breathy, tough girl voice coming out of the speakers. Sigh…

The music itself is really not that bad, but Presley just doesn’t yet have the presence to pull off what she’s trying. Sometimes she sounds like a man, and I can’t differentiate between the lead and backing vocals, which is always a sign of producers trying to cover up the lead vocalist. “Maybe it’s all riiiaaaaaahhhhhhhhhght.” That is a visual representation of how she says “all right,” with the word right is elongated into this preposterously long breath sound. But this is just the first track and things do get better, though the road is rough.

The music itself is actually pretty good (note how I’ve slightly, almost imperceptibly altered the preceding paragraph’s opening line), but Presley’s voice leaves much to be desired and in fact does more to detract and distract from what is good than to add anything musically. When her vocals are mixed in well, it feels more like of a result of good mixing rather than an impressive vocal performance. “Thanx” does a better job of blending in Presley’s semi-coarse vocals with the music, which, though somewhat generic rock-sounding, does have an appealing and accessible aspect to it. Like much of the album, the song is inspired closely by events in the singer’s life, this one addressed to her circle of friends who have stuck with her through the thick and thin of her celebrity life. “Idiot” is another fairly standard rock song, but the vocals perk up and hit their stride during the just-catchy-enough chorus.

Collaborating for the first time with other songwriters, though she penned the lyrics to 10 of the 11 tracks, Presley draws from the increasingly popular and seemingly ever-present Linda Perry on five tracks and has a duet with pop sensation Pink on the pleasant “Shine.” The only track Presley didn’t write at all is the cover of Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry,” a clear stab at the media’s rampant desire to examine and publicize every tiny aspect, the seedier the better, of people’s lives, something Presley knows a lot about. While she plays the cover with gusto, it actually takes away from her raw and obvious talent, which is writing lyrics. Though the writing exhibits the growing pains of someone working on a sophomore effort, songs like “Raven” and “Now What” include a personal touch that can’t be faked or replicated. In fact, in these semi-ballads, Presley’s vocals carry greater weight, since she seems more in touch with what she wants to say and obviously doesn’t feel she has to reach for any sort of meaning that isn’t there.

Presley claims not to care too much about getting radio play time or sacrificing her own ideas of what her music should be. She did develop what has turned out to be a loyal fan base after her first album and this album seems sincere in that sentiment. Though there are definite flaws in execution and a general rock ‘n’ roll malaise that seems to set in over the course of the album, it is pleasant enough to warrant more than one listen, albeit the resultant effect is one where you skip through it to find the tracks that you like. Presley seems to stay true to herself and her musical tastes, admirable considering the prevalence of pre-packaged pop divas these days. Now What may not be as accessible as much of the music out there right now, but there is a refreshing aspect in the fact that it is not trying to be. Presley walks a fine line and though her vocal style feels overwrought and abrasive at times, it’s still undoubtedly her.

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