1998: Toni Braxton files for bankruptcy. Titantic becomes one of the biggest films in history. Frank Sinatra dies. Swing dancing becomes the country line dancing of the decade. And Jennifer Page reaches Number Three on the charts with “Crush”.
2002: Braxton found some money somewhere. Titantic becomes Leonardo’s excuse to go into seclusion. Frank Sinatra continues to sell records beyond the grave. Swing dancing comes and goes, much to the shagrin of the uncoordinated everyway. And Jennifer Paige continues to intrigue with her latest album, Positively Somewhere.
When an unknown artist has a hit that saturates the market and becomes synonymous with their face, it can either make or break you. Alphaville’s “Big in Japan”. Broke them. Tina Arena — “Chains”. History. And then there’s the whole slew artists that had their 15 minutes of fame, but where are they now? Rick Astley? Corey Hart? Snap? Ray Parker Jr.? Will Jennifer be able to supersede “Crush” with her new CD?
Jennifer Paige will hopefully keep her head down and persevere through the house of mirrors that includes sex slave/schoolgirl Britney, alternative fave Ani DiFranco and the superfluous girl groups that abound — Dream, Eden’s Crush, Destiny’s Child, S Club. It will be hard to get her the attention she deserves. Mariah is continually spiralling into madness, Whitney is so doped up that she looks like Calista Flockheart’s twin sister, and do we even need to discuss Christina Aguilera? But Jennifer’s disc is good. Really good. The only problem with it is the freak side-show at the music carnival that is 2002. How can you compete with that when you are just, well, good, complete with no drama?
This 12-song CD is not remarkable. You will not likely drop that dish you are washing and say, “Who is that girl”? But she is a singer for anytime, day or night. You need something to listen to on the bus on the way to the gym? This is your girl. Perhaps you’re having a dinner party and don’t want to get into the drum ‘n’ bass just yet. Then Jennifer is perfect. There isn’t one scenario where it wouldn’t be great to have her on, unless your lover is a Deadhead or metal freak. Then there’s room for discussion.
Kicking off Positively Somewhere, “These Days” has a feels-like-summer quality. Wrought with feeling, Jennifer sings a poppy tune, but the quality guitars and drumming bring it up a notch to great radio song for 2002. Ambient keyboards simmer below at the start of “Here With Me”. Then it turns into a stronger rock song, reminiscent of late ’80s singers like Phil Collins and Roxette. This is a great highway driving song. Powerful, and still pop-ridden, making it accessible for both young and old(er).
Have you ever heard a familiar hook and you expect one song and then something else starts in? Unfortunately, this is the case with “Stranded”. Michelle Branch’s “Everywhere” is identical to the beginning. And yes, you will notice. But no doubt, you’ll agree that this is clearly the better song. Airy but not empty, this is sure to make it into a television series somewhere. Two main characters kiss after having kept their desires hidden for months. Play “Stranded”. Fade to black.
“Make Me” has a Latin beat and it sounds like it’s been added to round out the album. Music execs will think it is a good inclusion. It’s not. Keep Miss Paige doing what she does best. Singing pop-rock. A very engineered “Way of the World” will attract the young ‘uns. Uncharacteristically drab. Again, it’s probably the decision of those in the leather chairs. “Put on one of those songs with lots of effects. Use the Antares Autotune”. Blech. Mmm . . . a R&B-influenced “Not This Time” is sexy and not at all forced. Singing all breathy and sounding like a contemporary pop mistress morphed with someone from the ’80s, this is what Britney only wishes for. This could be the concept for a whole new album next time around. Dare you not to rock to this one.
Some of her slow stuff works. Some doesn’t. “You Get Through” is soft and even, but not multi-layered enough. However, one of the best tracks is “Feel So Far Away”. It is ambient and progressive without being too far away from who and what Jennifer Paige really is. It is one of the best slow pop songs to come along in a number of months. Why aren’t people listening to this instead of Kylie Minogue?
The last songs on the CD aren’t as enticing as the first half. “The Edge” is just okay and “Tell Me Again” is a formulaic pop song, but her voice on this one is so astoundingly good, you might just keep your finger on “Replay”. Playing popstar, Jennifer sings powerfully on “Stay the Night” but it isn’t as rich as the rest. “Vapor” should’ve been left to someone like Jewel, who does nothing but yodel and whimper.
Consistently putting forth great beats, it isn’t a dance mix per se. However, by song two, you’ll be doing whatever it is you’re doing, but with a little twist of the hips, a little lip-synching going on. And this is why someone like Jennifer Paige is good. She isn’t too much or too little. She’s just right. It’s just a shame that this won’t make her a star. Now if she would just get a bad ass husband (it worked for Whitney Houston, Courtney Love and Madonna) or behaved like a diva (again, Whitney Houston, Courtney Love, and Madonna, with the addition of Mariah Carey, Destiny’s Child and L’il Kim), she might just get herself some media attention.