Music Notes

Sat. February 16, 2008 12:00 AM

Lesbian chanteuse k.d. Lang celebrates a Watershed moment with her tenth studio recording. Plus: Missy Elliott returns with "Ching-A-Ling" from the soundtrack to the film, Step Up 2; Panic! At The Disco logs another hit with "Nine In The Afternoon" and Jordin Sparks fizzles with a less than spine-tingling version of the national anthem.

k. d. Lang / Watershed

There is a natural beauty and purity to k.d. Lang's voice that somehow manages to elicit chills with its subtlety rather than its showiness. Add to this Lang's innate ability as a consummate storyteller and the sheer perfection of Watershed, her 10th studio recording, seems a less surprising feat.

Among the more intriguing characteristics of Lang's latest is the fact that it is a collection of mellow, melancholy tracks that might have been downright boring in the hands of a less gifted artist. Layered with strings and the twang of steel guitars, the songs that make up Watershed unfold like beautifully wrapped presents—each one draped in emotion and then tied up in those smoky, understated spot on vocals the out chanteuse has fine tuned over the years.

Some might call Watershed an uneventful album because of its restrained pace (trust me you'll find no "Miss Chatelaine" on this disc), but that is precisely what makes this disc so appealing, for this is one recording where the lyrics and vocals, simple as they may be, are clearly the stars. That is not to say that the instrumentation and production on Watershed are not superlative, but rather to suggest that they are the frame for the disc rather than the canvas.

Disc highlights include the contemplative "I Dream of Spring," the fantastical "Je fais la plancha," the jazzy "Sunday " and "Close Your Eyes," a song laced with tear-inducing aching. "Flame of the Uninspired" is an equally arresting and thoughtful offering from on this lush collection.

Watershed is indeed an appropriate name for the newest addition to the k.d. Lang catalog because that is exactly the moment in represents in her stellar career.

(Buy the CD)

Now on to a few new singles...

Missy Elliott / Ching-A-Ling (Single)

It's been a while since we last heard from Missy Elliott, but the queen of rap makes a splashy return with "Ching-A-Ling," the beat laden lead single from the soundtrack to the upcoming film Step Up 2. Writhing with the signature staccato vibe that Elliott has made famous, "Ching-A-Ling" is at once familiar and fresh recalling the rap superstar's rise to prominence on the music scene.

In fact the hook which finds Elliott dispassionately singing "Ching ching gettin' paid over here" over spare instrumentation is almost surerly destined to be among the most memorable hooks of the first quarter.

Now if only we could get an entire new album from Elliott, all might be made right with music!

Panic! At The Disco / Nine In The Afternoon (Single)

Though it may lack the immediate connection of their mega-hit "I Write Sins Not Tragedies, Emo act Panic! At The Disco's new single "Nine In The Afternoon," a track from their A Fever You Can't Sweat Out album, is still hard to resist.

Blending horns and violins with lead singer's Brendan Urie's passionate vocals and an upbeat, raucously infectious pop hook, "Nine In The Afternoon", looks like another hit for the innovative band from the Vegas burbs.

Jordin Sparks / The Star Spangled Banner (Single)

Was there a really a need to release a new version of the Star Spangled Banner? Least of all one sung by one of the most spectacularly underperforming American Idol winners of recent memory? The answer is of course a resounding ‘no'.

Uninspired and bland, Sparks' version of our national anthem is a completely inconsequential musical exercise. If you're feeling patriotic, pick up a far more inspiring version of America's theme courtesy of Whitney Houston, Dolly Parton or Beyoncé, all of whom actually deliver versions of the anthem that still produce goose pimples for all the right reasons.

Written By Duane Wells
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