-->
Music

Rinaldi Sings: What's It All About?

Maura McAndrew

Britain's new bubblegum soul man croons his way to the top. But will we all go into sugar shock?"


Rinaldi Sings

What's It All About?

Label: Tangerine
US Release Date: 2005-02-21
UK Release Date: 2005-03-07
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

Rinaldi Sings' Steve Rinaldi certainly knows what he's doing. From just a glance at the liner notes of What's It All About?, his debut solo album (he was a member of indie band the Moment for years), anyone can see his focus, his goal. Rinaldi wants to take the world by storm by bringing back the antithesis of the tiresome New York rock of now: that cheerful, brass-laden bubblegum Motown of the late '60s, with a hint of Tony Orlando/Tom Jones bravado thrown in. It's not cool, it's not careless, it's not dark, but it is, well, cheesy.

Rinaldi deserves credit for going against the grain, and has become a critical favorite in his home of England. But is that because it's a great album, or because the NME is simply sick of talking about the Libertines? I found myself really enjoying Rinaldi's smooth, charming delivery at the beginning of the album, with the highlight "Happy". "Happy" is a truly ridiculous bubblegum gem, all groovy horns and crooning. But though Rinaldi's voice is pleasant, his arrangements catchy, and his songs singable, after a few tracks it all gets to be a bit much.

The liner notes themselves demonstrate this: There's Rinaldi on a Vespa playing a trombone! And there he is superimposed into a 1960s "Top of the Pops" set! It's sort of funny, and like fellow Englishman Robbie Williams, Steve Rinaldi performs his songs with a constant ironic smirk. But where Williams was clever and self-effacing, Rinaldi gets too lost in his shtick to bother. For example, after "Happy" comes "On a Magic Carpet Ride", which just seems like a lazy attempt to poke fun at a tired cliché.

The songs on What's It All About?, though increasingly cloying, are insanely catchy, and Rinaldi deserves credit for making it look easy. Writing a catchy tune is hard, and to my surprise, after listening to the album only twice I was singing along without even knowing it. There's a mid-tempo break halfway through the album with gems such as the Britpop-sounding "You're Alive" and "Lucky Day", though perhaps I only like them because they are the two genre departures on the album. Rinaldi does better when he lays off the brass and uses his cuddly Damon Albarn vocals to reveal something more honest.

The rest of the album (labeled "side two", naturally), is smooth and poppy, but it's overkill. Hearing any one of these songs on the radio would make me happy, but listening to them all at once is like eating an entire bag of Oreos in one sitting: I feel weary and bloated, wondering what it was I ever liked about them. Perhaps Steve Rinaldi should take a cue from his 1960s predecessors and realize that a few 45s can go a long way. This blue-eyed crooner could conquer the singles market, but as it stands a whole album is sickly-sweet pop overload.

5

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
Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less
7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

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

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

rating-image