Music

Joss Stone: LP1

The UK songstress leaves soul music behind in lieu of some good, old-fashioned pop rock. The result, of course, is disappointing.


Joss Stone

LP1

Label: Stone'd
US Release Date: 2011-07-26
UK Release Date: 2011-07-25
Amazon
iTunes

Oh boy, Joss Stone is angry.

That should really come as no surprise to her fans. From the wise-beyond-her-years debut, 2003's The Soul Sessions, to the overt jab at her now-former record label, EMI, Colour Me Free, the 24-year-old songstress has always been sure to wear her emotions on her English sleeve. It's become expected of her to offer emotionally charged, oftentimes-raw performances on her albums, albums that are typically filled with a modern day mix of inspiring soul and rhythm & blues, mind you.

But this time around, on LP1, the first release on her Stone'd Records imprint, Stone is missing the key element of why she has been so lauded over the course of her increasingly mature career: A groove. In fact, her latest release lacks so much of a groove, it would be safe to say the singer has almost completely abandoned her soulful roots altogether. Forget Aretha Franklin, Etta James or Dusty Springfield. With LP1, Joss Stone is trying her best to channel Melissa Etheridge, Sass Jordan, or even... gulp... Kelly Clarkson.

The result is disappointing. It's low-rent. It's unexpected. And most of all, it seems like something Joss Stone was previously above. Taking a turn toward rock music wasn't a turn she needed to take. An acoustic guitar and bland rhythms simply won't do when you once recorded the powerful kiss off "You Had Me" or the enormously sexy "Put Your Hands on Me". And pop-rock hooks seem like child's play when compared to the infectious bounce of "Tell Me 'Bout It" or the Steely Dan meets Earth, Wind & Fire soul of "Incredible" or "You Got the Love".

Still, Stone is determined to veer away from her R&B roots on LP1, fans and critics be damned. The biggest misstep here is "Newborn", the album's first track that crescendos in and out of faux pop-rock. The fact that she traded in her soul shoes for a pair of faded, ripped blue jeans is prevalent from this beginning generic number. As if the "Everybody walk hand in hand / Get hold of your leg, push together / Everybody get over / You turned up too late / That trick's over" chorus isn't pedestrian enough, the inherent one-hit-wonder feel of such a track is something new for the singer. It's that feeling of commonality -- that feeling that escapes originality or imagination -- that plasters a brown spot on not only this song, but the entire album.

"Last One to Know" and "Landlord" are also massive letdowns. Both see Stone do something she's not accustomed to doing: Fail. While it's clear both tracks are attempts at being emotional (more so during the former) and clever (more so during the latter), they both seem to be missing that intangible element that the singer so effortlessly displayed on her first four albums. Both tracks feel forced for different reasons -- "Last One to Know" because of the insistence upon coming up with a rock anthem based around the notion that such a lover scorned could never imagine being in love again, and "Landlord" because of the weak metaphor that showcases a seemingly battered lover who "doesn't want to be someone else's landlord anymore". They are low points in Stone's career.

Naturally, the album's best moments come when the songwriter allows a hint of R&B into her performances, however few and far between those moments may appear. "Karma" is the most soulful Stone gets on the record with its Stevie Wonder-like electronic keyboard and hoppy drum pattern. As she yells the "I should have been a little bit stronger / I should have been a little bit harder / I should have been a little bit tougher / I should have been a little bit smarter" refrain toward the end of the song, it forces any listener's hopes to sky-rocket, thinking the singer may be back to her old, soulful self. And, to be fair, "Don't Start Lying to Me Now" is biting in spite of its attempt at soft-core R&B. Even so, the song is still a glaring example of those intangible things the album is missing as we see the singer come up a bit short even when she tries to dabble back into her roots.

So, yes. Joss Stone is awfully angry. Angry at what? Well, that's still up for debate. Could it be another lover who has criminally done her wrong? Could it be that dreaded, evil record label that held her down for so many years? Who knows, really. What we do know, though, is that the songs that make up LP1 are covered in spite (she's never dared used the words "shit" and "bitch" in such a manner as she does on a few songs here). But even with those biting words and sometimes-screamy vocal performances, something about the entire effort seems a bit put-on. What earned the singer so many accolades for so many years was her innate ability to channel -- and subsequently bare -- her soul while singing and performing. You simply believed what she was saying, no matter the backdrop. And while it’s impossible to truly define what makes LP1 so frustrating, it’s safe to say that through all the angry growls and snoozy pop melodies that color the album, believing is Joss Stone becomes increasingly difficult each time these songs are played.

4

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image