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Nick Lachey

What's Left of Me

(Jive; US: 9 May 2006; UK: Available as import)

When the good people at Nick Lachey, Inc. were budgeting for his new album, I have no doubt that men in very expensive suits were making the case for most of the cash going into photography for the CD booklet.  Slick young MBAs in Armani would understand the importance of this: Nick looking good, looking buff, looking kinda sad and pouty but still strong, looking like he’s ready for love again.  Maybe with you!


Yeah, guys—we’re going to sell the crap out of this one!  He’s a handsome devil, this Nick Lachey!


For those lucky souls who don’t shop in supermarkets, don’t own TVs, don’t occasionally spin the radio dial, and have been living on a island in the South Pacific all alone, here is everything you need to know about Nick Lachey:


(1) He used to be a singer with the group 98 Degrees, which was the least of the groups referred to as “boy bands” a while back—groups of artificially cool-looking young men who sang saccharine pop tunes in wildly over-produced harmony (cue yer synthesizers, drum machines, strings,—anything that could create dramatic effect in the ears of a US girl, age 10-18) whose music was marketed using pretty much same techniques, cash, and corporate savvy that would be used to launch a new sandwich at McDonalds.


(2) Nick Lachey, despite being a mere cog in the boyband machine, recorded a minor hit duet with his girlfriend, the rising pop-songstress Jessica Simpson, who is just as good looking as he is.


(3) Boy bands went out of style.  Jessica’s career soared.  She would begin appearing in movies (as “Daisy Dukes” the very tight cut-offs-wearing girl in the incredibly spirit-crushing-and-cultural-death-knell-inducing film of The Dukes of Hazzard) and was even big enough to propel her less attractive sister, Ashlee, into pop stardom.


(4) Nick and Jessica married in 2002, essentially on TV.  Jessica announced that she was a virgin on her wedding night, a claim that is as unverifiable as it is unbelievable, though she was raised in Texas and, like, maybe that’s the law there?  In their MTV show Newlyweds, Jessica was the star, claiming to believe that “buffalo wings” were made from buffalo meat, among other fatuous (and probably scripted) comments that had the effect (or, rather, were designed to have the effect) of making her seem even more like the world’s hottest blond.  Lachey stares on in cat-who-ate-the-canary glory.


(5) Break-up!  Tabloid fodder!


And now ex-Mr. Jessica Simpson sends this one out to you, ladies—sitting in the cab of cool retro truck baring his super-cool (or, er . . ., super-dated) barbed-wire-around-the-bicep tattoo while giving you his most smoldering come-hither.


It’s an album all about—what else?—break-ups.  The title, What’s Left of Me, shows you just how devastated Nick is by the end of his marriage.  And he’s angry too, but still sensitive:  “I Can’t Hate You Anymore”.  Now he’s out there looking for love, ladies: “On Your Own”.  But his experience with Jess has made him both sad and kind of alienated (but in an attractive, football quarterback kind of way): “Shades of Blue”, and “Outside Looking In”.  After Nick assures your teenage daughter that “You’re Not Alone” and “I Do It For You”, I believe he will have reached “Resolution”.  The album is a journey of personal discovery, man.  It’s deep.


The music itself is Grade-A contemporary pop—the kind of stuff they’re peddling on American Idol, but without the fun and the quirks and the occasional blast of gray-haired soul.  Mr. Lachey can sing, whisper, cry, and well-up like a real pop star should—and every song has a hook, a swelling chorus, a dose of never-risky ear candy.  When I popped this baby into a boombox in my backyard yesterday, my daughter’s 16 year-old pal said, “I love this song!” as the title track rang out.  In which case she might just love the whole album, with each song sounding eerily similar to the first hit.


This kind of music might just be unreviewable in the end.  It is on the radio, where it belongs.  It is coming from car windows as the summer heats up, and you should hear it at the beach.  I think it might help you get a better tan or even make you want to date someone who doesn’t know whether Chicken of the Sea Tuna is, you know—chicken or fish?


To expect Nick Lachey to defy his handlers at Nick Lachey, Inc. is surely asking too much.  Does he have a clever batch of indie-rock gems up his sleeve?  Does he have a soft-spot for Brian Wilson harmony or a James Brown shout or a Joni Mitchell ballad?  It’s unlikely we’ll ever know.  Why indulge in all that darn music-making when there is a photo-shoot awaiting? —while there is stubble to be grown and a cool pair of boots to pick out with your stylist?


In the meantime, however, you can content yourself with the fact that it is early summer and America’s need for mindless pop music is about the peak.  My daughter’s friend loves “What’s Left of Me” and—you know what?—I was kind of digging it too.

Rating:

Will Layman is a writer, teacher and musician living in the Washington, DC area. He is a contributor to National Public Radio and frequently appears as a guest on WNYC's "Soundcheck" as a jazz critic. He plays both funk and jazz in the bars and clubs in and near the nation's capital. His fiction and humor appear in print and online.


Tagged as: nick lachey
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