Indiana born and bred, singer-songwriter Sara Melson sprouted up in the middle of America. In a different decade, she probably would have become a country singer. Here in the 2000’s, her target market is the Starbucks crowd. Is her debut album, Dirty Mind, actually available at Starbucks? Couldn’t tell ya. But opening track and lead single “Feel It Coming” was featured on Grey’s Anatomy, which is pretty much the same thing. Melson’s songs are all right, as is her voice, as is the album’s production, as are the performances from her backing band, etc. For a CD that shares its name with Prince’s most salacious LP, the lack of adventurousness or grit here stands out more than any other quality. I’m not saying Melson should go punk or DIY or feign angst if she has none. Still, she needs to find something to get excited about. The bulk of this album is just too damn pleasant.
There are a few exceptions. The strummy and bouncy “Anywhere Anytime” leaps forward with its sunny, sing-songy hook and is a far better song than “Feel It Coming”. Later on the record, Melson gets slightly more adventurous. “Fall Down” surprises with its swirls of flanged-out guitar, which yield to a nicely contrasting Sheryl Crow-like chorus. “Don’t You Wanna Know” sounds like it could have come right off of The Bangles’ fantastic jangle-pop debut, All Over the Place. That these more intriguing pair of cuts lay buried two-thirds of the way through the album speaks volumes about the kind of artist Nettwerk wants Sara Melson to be: palatable. Heck, maybe she wants that for herself. Dirty Mind is very listenable, and it’s only un-enjoyable if you listen with the critical ear of, well, a critic. For everyone else, enjoy the half-caff macchiato and dreams of Dr. McDreamy.