When an artist who has been popular for over a decade comes back after several years of absence, one hopes that the artist in question will carry elements of past endeavors into the present one. Unfortunately, it seems Sheryl Crow has done something completely new, and ultimately, it is nothing compared to her past work.
Born in Missouri more than 40 years ago, Sheryl Crow has been producing albums since her 1993 debut, Tuesday Night Music Club. The one-time voice teacher has since released three more albums, as well as a compilation album of her best hits and a live album and DVD. The hardworking artist never seemed to stop — as soon as an album was released she was on the road singing her heart out. Taking into account her nine Grammy awards, one would expect her new album to be a stunning achievement of self-reflection.
Wildflower is an example of Crow's view of her life so far. The dominating theme of the tracks is her love for her famous athlete-fiancé Lance Armstrong. While the songs have been finished since February, the album wasn't dropped until September. Planned for release after the Tour de France, the album went on the market just after Armstrong's seventh victory at the Tour, which Crow has said was "no accident."
"At this point in my life, I really wanted to make a record that wasn't concerned with having singles, that felt mature and asked the questions that a 40-year-old would ask," Crow says in a personal statement on her website.
Sadly, however, Wildflower shows a regression of talent instead of a move forward. The album is slow moving and doesn't showcase the happy music that she used to produce — the kind of music that was enjoyable to walk, run and drive to. Instead, this album shows that Sheryl Crow is not such a phenomenal singer and that her voice isn't as finely tuned as once thought. The songs all sort of blend together with slow-paced drum beats, gentle acoustic guitar strumming and her characteristic background crooning. The only hint of something new on this album is the occasional sound of an electric guitar attempting to compliment her voice and acoustic.
The first track on the album, "I Know Why," opens with the high-pitched plucking of the guitar at a steady tempo — not too fast, not too slow. Crow's voice is low and soft in the beginning, but as she sings "I know why the heart gets lonely / every time you give your heart away," her voice rises. Here her voice is not as nicely tuned and is less pleasant, as though she is a little boy going through puberty instead of an accomplished singer. There is a banjo in the background, along with a constant beat on the drums that suggests scenes of America's south.
The more popular song "Good is Good" begins with electric guitar, but the guitar is soon lost and replaced by Crow's voice and her trusty acoustic. On this track Crow's voice is too high; the melody is pretty, but her voice sounds like it's close to cracking. As she sings "And every time you hear the rolling thunder / you turn and run before the lightning strikes" the electric guitar returns to compliment her soprano vocals. While her voice isn't perfect, the combination of voice and guitar is soothing and agreeable during the chorus. For the most part, however, the vocals on this track grate the ears.
In the song "Live it up," the guitar is fast paced. Crow's singing is reminiscent of her more upbeat days with her album C'mon C'mon. The drums are brushed and beaten in the background, making the song a good one to bop your head to. Again her voice goes into a higher pitch, but instead of being hard to listen to, it is pleasant and makes one think of sunny days. This song may be the best on the album because it shows that while Crow can be reflective she can also get back to the roots that brought her to the top.
This album is nothing to run to stores for. Crow would have been better off releasing more compilations, because she is still clearly stuck in her past and cannot seem to create anything new to keep people coming back.