Sunday, January 07, 2007

Katharine McPhee: I Lost You

Before I begin this review, I should start with some caveats:

(1.) It's really hard to review a 2 song disc. It doesn't really give you enough of an idea to know what the final product will be like.

(2.) I'm a fan of all the Idols. I want them all to do well.

So here goes.

I wasn't blown away like I was hoping to be. I thought initially that I'd pop the CD in, be overwhelmed by the melodies, and just have a musical joyride all the way home. That's not really what happened. More or less, I was feeling like "eh? this is it??"

Now before all the Katharine fans jump all over me and accuse me of being a Kat-hater, hear me out for a second. I'm not against Katharine in any way. I think she's an extremely talented performer with gobs of potential to be one of the greats. I sincerely hold out hope that her debut album will be good.

The truth is, I don't think that this single's flaws are Katharine's fault. It's almost as if the single's producers got together and said "hey, let's go find the two crappiest songs we can get, throw a shorted-out synthesizer program into the computer, and put out the most poorly instrumented and packaged performance we possibly can." Katharine's vocals are spot-on on both songs. The only problem with that is that you can't HEAR her half the time. She is constantly drowned out by her back-up singers. And the musical accompaniment quite often sounds like my little sister when she was five banging on a busted Casio keyboard.

I'll never understand the need to re-invent Katharine as a new version of Christina Aguilera. Yet that's where all roads point, based on this single and the tracks that were leaked previously. The thing with Christina Aguilera is that even Christina isn't Christina anymore. The times have changed, and reinvention became necessary. And Katharine is NOT a pop princess, nor does she need to be packaged as such. The girl obviously has a dynamic voice, but the material that she is being given to record doesn't showcase it very well. The problem with working with people like The Underdogs, Danja, the Neptunes, Timbaland, or any pop/hip-hop producers of the sort is that the song becomes more about their beat and less about your voice (to wit, the downfall of Britney Spears.) Katharine's better than that. I'd much rather see her performing songs written by Diane Warren or Walter Afanasieff. Those songs would allow her to show her range much more. When I hear Katharine sing, I want to hear a rich vocal performance, not some DJ showing off his beats.

The big irritating thing about this single is that it's a single meant to fill a gap. And it's obvious that's the case. This is a "we meant to have the full CD out by now" sort of release. A "please don't forget us" sort of thing.

I don't want to go into how this single stacks up against singles by Carrie Underwood, Clay Aiken, or Kelly Clarkson. Any of their worst singles was better executed than this one. I will, however, make a slight comparison to Justin Guarini, insofar as it seems that the powers that be are just as intent on screwing up her career as they were with him.

The trouble with Katharine herself lies not within her vocal prowess. It's just that since the beginning of last year's Idol, she hasn't appeared to really know who she is. There's so much about her that looks like a mask. Whether it's her sultry look, her "I can swallow my own fist" smile, or her performances, you're never really sure what you're going to get out of her. I sense a very troubled person inside the bright bubbly demeanor. It lurks around the corner, and has made itself evident with her eating disorder, but mostly it bubbles under the skin. I can't wait for the days when Katharine will discover herself more fully, because I believe that only then will we have a successful effort from her.

Like I said, I hope her debut turns out to be fantastic. I want to see this beautiful young lady succeed mightily. Unfortunately, I recommend skipping the single, saving your three bucks, and just waiting till the album hits stores.


At 4:28 PM, Anonymous Kat said...

J.D., I agree with 99% of what you've written here. The point I disagree with is the part about Kat's spot-on vocals. While it's true that she was TECHNICALLY hitting all the notes on both these songs, there was something empty and tinny about her voice here. It's especially prevalent on "I Lost You"--the beginning sounded forced and pouty, but when she hit the bridge, her voice all of a sudden became nasal and almost child-like. I'm not much of a fan of her personality, but she's got a great voice, and I'm sorry that it's not being showcased more. It seems that she's being marketed as yet another disposable pop princess. But Katharine's been pretty vocal about her desire to be an entertainer; I don't see her letting one album flop (if it does flop) get in her way.

At 5:49 PM, Blogger winnie said...

oberI do want to clarify this to you and to the other poster and to the potential readers of this blog since I found you through my Google Alert which is where all this is going to lead anyhow. First of all "I Lost You" is not Katharine's single. It happened to be the song that is called "Over It" which is hitting the charts very well in it's first 4 days of release (i believe somewhere in the 100 +). Secondly, the back up vocals are all Katharine. She did it all. Thirdly, I Lost You did not make the track list of her cd. Dangerous did make it but not I Lost You.

While you were not blown away by this single (that's ok too and even if I am a Kat fan, I am not going to jump all over you, just stating some facts)I am going to refer you to her Better Off Alone song that she performed live at the Rose Parade New Year's Day. If you can't find it online, I urge you to please listen to it when the cd comes out. It is Cut #10 and then put out your most honest musical ramblings.

Lastly, on her cd there are two or three different songs that were written by Walter A and produced by him too. So....before everyone puts Kat down for "I Lost You", let's wait to hear her cd.

ps...(sorry I can't help it)...Kat knows what she wants to be on AI, it is just that that contest limits what she could do because she has to stay within the parameters of the week's genre. It also does not help that she does a perfectly great performance and then get's rimmed and compared to Whitney Houston. In the end, she shows that she can sing that song in front of Whitney and get a standing ovation. Just had to state some facts.

At 8:48 PM, Anonymous Jemima said...

I have not heard these tracks so to that I cannot comment. However, the rest of your comments based on my watching the show week in and week out I believe to be highly accurate. Katherine is one of the most gorgeous women out there with a phenomenal voice, yet I find something troubling about her. She seemed sweet when we saw her at the second AI concert we attended, but there is something bothersome there. I too hope she finds herself and becomes comfortable with herself. She definitely has what it takes to rise to the top, but maybe she needs to believe in her own talent as much as we do to really sell herself.

At 9:26 PM, Anonymous nonna said...

I have not heard them yet but I respect your opinion.I wish that Katherine would be putting out music that showcases her beautiful voice and sing beautiful songs, not ones that try to put her out of her element.It's about time we have great music back with words we all understand and pure, great voices.

At 11:21 PM, Anonymous Sarah said...

I haven't always seen eye to eye with you JD, but in this instance you hit the nail on the head. She makes me uncomfortable because I feel like she's playing a part - there is a person under there, but she needs to find out who that is to shine, IMO

At 4:39 PM, Anonymous PezKat said...

I was surprised at the initial 'packaging' of Kelly Clarkson as a pop princess, but it's certainly worked out well for her! ;-)

(Yes, I'm still alive! And blogging again... we'll see if I can keep up!)


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