Sheryl Crow: Icon 2

The greatest female rock vocalist of the 1990s is celebrated in a two-disc compilation from Universal.

Sheryl Crow

Icon 2

Label: Universal
UK Release Date: Import

The kids today probably don’t know the Sheryl Crow that I grew up with. Most will associate her with motherhood, coming down with cancer after having her heart broken by cancer-survivor Lance Armstrong, or as one of those eco-friendly rockers who turns up at charity fundraisers. Musically, she seems to have bracketed into the mould of the middle-aged rock star. Serene and content – her modern persona makes her seem like the kind of person who would like nothing more than to spend the weekend sipping camomile tea in Sting and Trudie Styler’s back garden while the children bop about.

But in the 1990s, Sheryl Crow was filled with angst. Like market grunge, it was an angst that oscillated between a simmer and a howl. Only conversely, the results formed some of catchiest pop-rock songs of the decade. From the misery anthem "If It Makes You Happy" to the submissive despair of "Anything But Down", Crow managed to escape being lumped into the one-hit wonder categorization synonymous of the Lilith Fair creation. Her success is undoubtedly attributed to her greatest instrument – her voice. It is an icy powerhouse that enraptures you when it crackles and soars, and even more so when it stays smooth, never venturing too far above the reaches of her lower octave.

To put it definitively, Sheryl Crow was the best female rock voice of the 1990s (Courtney Love comes a close second), and she continues to be one of the great female rock vocalists of our generation. In Icon 2, some of the artist’s most recognisable cuts are collected for the first time in a two-disc set. Featuring tracks like her breakout, "All I Wanna Do", alongside subtler fare such as "Home" from her superlative album, The Globe Sessions, as well as the covers "Sweet Child ‘O Mine" and "The First Cut is The Deepest", Icon 2 sets out to be an authoritative entry point for newcomers.

Unfortunately, what this compilation lacks is Crow’s authorial narrative. Crow is an indomitable songwriter and storyteller, and her early albums were pieced together with narrative lucidity; they were like perfectly self-contained novellas that resonated both publically and privately. Removed from their original context here, they lose their impact and some of their significance.

Crow loyalists will already own all of these songs and won’t bat an eyelid at this collection. The Icon series initiated by the Universal Music Group is one of those poor record investments that one imagines will slowly but surely be washed out by the digital age.

Certainly, it is time for record archivists to find more fascinating ways of re-appropriating their collections. And at the very least, they should realize that if a newer generation is to experience music for the first time, then they should be experiencing it as was intended (i.e. in its original context). Reinvigorating an artist’s catalogue and furthering commercial interests may very well exist on the same agenda, but if the industry refuses to imbue it with the same sense of imagination as it does newer releases, then it may very well be that "the compilation" genre slowly disappears into the ether.




Reading Pandemics

Parable Pandemics: Octavia E. Butler and Racialized Labor

Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower, informed by a deep understanding of the intersectionality of dying ecologies, disease, and structural racism, exposes the ways capitalism's insatiable hunger for profit eclipses humanitarian responses to pandemics.


'Tiger King' and the Post-Truth Culture War

Tiger King -- released during and dominating the streaming-in-lockdown era -- exemplifies in real-time the feedback loop between entertainment and ideology.


Ivy Mix's 'Spirits of Latin America' Evokes the Ancestors

A common thread unites Ivy Mix's engaging Spirits of Latin America; "the chaotic intermixture between indigenous and European traditions" is still an inextricable facet of life for everyone who inhabits the "New World".


Contemporary Urbanity and Blackness in 'New Jack City'

Hood films are a jarring eviction notice for traditional Civil Rights rhetoric and, possibly, leadership -- in other words, "What has the Civil Rights movement done for me lately?"


'How to Handle a Crowd' Goes to the Moderators

Anika Gupta's How to Handle a Crowd casts a long-overdue spotlight on the work that goes into making online communities enjoyable and rewarding.


Regis' New LP Reaffirms His Gift for Grinding Industrial Terror

Regis' music often feels so distorted, so twisted out of shape, even the most human moments feel modular. Voices become indistinguishable from machines on Hidden in This Is the Light That You Miss.


DMA's Go for BritElectroPop on 'The Glow'

Aussie Britpoppers the DMA's enlist Stuart Price to try their hand at electropop on The Glow. It's not their best look.


On Infinity in Miranda July's 'Me and You and Everyone We Know'

In a strange kind of way, Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know is about two competing notions of "forever" in relation to love.


Considering the Legacy of Deerhoof with Greg Saunier

Working in different cities, recording parts as MP3s, and stitching them together, Deerhoof once again show total disregard for the very concept of genre with their latest, Future Teenage Cave Artists.


Joshua Ray Walker Is 'Glad You Made It'

Texas' Joshua Ray Walker creates songs on Glad You Made It that could have been on a rural roadhouse jukebox back in the 1950s. Their quotidian concerns sound as true now as they would have back then.


100 gecs Remix Debut with Help From Fall Out Boy, Charli XCX and More

100 gecs' follow up their debut with a "remix album" stuffed with features, remixes, covers, and a couple of new recordings. But don't worry, it's just as blissfully difficult as their debut.


What 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Taught Me About Unlearning Toxic Masculinity

When I first came out as trans, I desperately wanted acceptance and validation into the "male gender", and espoused negative beliefs toward my femininity. Avatar: The Last Airbender helped me transcend that.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.