Don’t let the album title fool you. There’s very little that’s not conventional about Unkunvenshunal Girl. Josie makes inoffensive girl-pop masked in a sort of quasi-alternative spirit. While she’s a bit too sensitive for the fans of the empty pop of the likes of Britney Spears, she still lacks the maturity and introspection of singer/songwriters like Tori Amos and Sarah MacLachlan. Josie makes music for girls who haven’t quite grown into Alanis Morrissette. You’ll want to like her, but it’ll be a challenge all the way to do so.
The greatest, and perhaps only, advantage of Unkunvenshunal Girl is Josie’s voice. Bright and passionate with just the right tinge of attitude, it definitely carries the songs, and provides the only reason to listen most of the time. The songs are bogged down in slick overproduction, drowning out any real emotion that may have existed in them. She seems a bit too young for adult contemporary radio, but because of the tepid sound of most of these songs, that’s undoubtedly where she’s going to end up.
Lyrically, Josie’s songs are cheesy girl-power anthems, styled after the folk-punk spirit of Ani DiFranco, only done poorly. In the title track she sings “Sorry I’m not your simple girl. I like cold pizza and raw cookie dough” as if that’s some sort of insight. On the annoyingly preachy “Love Yourself” she sings “Until you learn to love yourself, you can’t love anybody else” with a sort of supreme earnestness that makes you wonder if she realizes she’s not saying anything new.
The simple ballads, like “Into You,” are fairly standard, but still possess the traditional pop beauty that makes them work. These quiet, tender songs are better than the posturing of “GetSumMo” (one annoying feature of the album is Josie’s tendency to deliberately misspell words in an attempt to come across as cool) and “Having A Bad Day.” The standout track, though, is the a cappella “You Can Hear Me Now,” which, stripped of any synthesized instruments, comes across as merely honest. It’s unfortunate that the rest of Unkunvenshunal Girl lacks that quality.
Josie does have some talent, but most of these songs are overdone and hide what she does best. Her attempts to prove herself as bold and tough go directly against the generic sound of her music. On “Extreeem” she sings, “Playing it safe is unoriginal”. It’s too bad she didn’t manage to follow her own advice.
// Notes from the Road
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