According to the liner notes, Jessica Andrews has grown up a lot since her first album release two years ago. She is still only 17, but despite the title of second album Who I Am, Andrews proves that ultimately she has no idea who or what she is supposed to be.
That has a lot to do with producer Byron Gallimore, who can always be relied upon to cause confusion between the two genres of pop and country, and on Who I Am he has done it again. Only this time it’s worse than ever.
Martina McBride and Faith Hill may antagonise the purists who feel they sail too close to the waters of pure pop, but at least they have SONGS; sadly for Andrews, Who I Am is filled with the kind of tunes that are a country mile away from being country, and barely pop songs either. Tracks such as “I Won’t Like Anyone”, “These Wings” and second single “Helplessly, Hopelessly” contain average melodies, predictable arrangements and lazy lyrics that make listening to all of this disc in one sitting a task requiring the kind of mind-numbing painkillers usually reserved for large herbivores.
There are a few songs that manage to climb above the general malaise and mediocrity, most notably the Tia Sellers- and Hillary Lindsay-penned “Every Time”, which has a semi-genuine country charm, the sprightly zest of “Karma”, and “Good Friend of Mine” (the only song Andrews co-wrote), which at least shows promise.
The rest of the album reverts to the familiar sanitized teen pop pap, with the odd fiddle or mandolin haphazardly thrown in to songs like the title track for good crossover measure. However, these embellishments seem as out of place on this album as the words ‘newly matured’ in the teenager’s record company biography.
Vocally, there’s no doubt Andrews has talent, even if tracks like “Now I Know” show her voice is more Christina Aguilera than Dolly Parton. As a result, it’s probably deliberate that the voice that once impressed at country fairs with Andrews’ renditions of “I Will Always Love You” is trapped in these pop-by-numbers tunes as even her performance on the cover of Maria McKee’s “Show Me Heaven” seems muted and somehow understated.
Unbelievably, Who I Am went gold three weeks after its release, so the Nashville suits have been vindicated. However, such a sobering statistic only places question marks over the sanity of the record buying public and does little to alter the fact that Who I Am is a truly character-less collection of songs better classified as ‘product’ than music.