German countertenor Andreas Scholl owes his considerable popularity partly to his ability to stay a step ahead of strong competition in terms of repertory. But nothing he has done compares with Scholl Goes Pop, which is unusual even by the often outrageous standards of the crossover universe. It is in no way a continuation of Scholl's earlier Wayfaring Stranger project, and it doesn't resemble pop and rock releases by other classically trained vocalists. Nor does the booklet interview with Scholl and his collaborator and duet partner Orlando (Roland Kunz), in English, German, and French, really shed much light on what Scholl was trying to do. He asserts that "the themes that pop music tends to focus on rarely have the depth or relevance of a Dowland song or the setting of a Shakespeare sonnet." There are several problems with this statement, one being that it's not in the themes that contemporary pop music differs from Dowland, and another being that Dowland had no idea he was writing anything other than pop music. The biggest problem, however, is that if the songs performed by Scholl and Orlando lack relevance or depth, they have only themselves to blame, for they wrote all of it themselves, sometimes, in Orlando's case, using preexisting lyrics ranging chronologically from the Roman poet Horace to English (or in one case Italian) madrigalists. Scholl seems to be striving for a sort of elevated pop music. Drawing on soft rock, ballads, and disco rather than more contemporary styles, he offers a few lyrics that could pass for contemporary pop songs, and he sounds mighty odd singing the words "ain't" and "gonna." In the Orlando compositions, he combines texts that a countertenor might normally sing with a middle-of-the-road pop language, an intriguing idea. But the oddest thing is that he doesn't really exploit his own voice. Almost all the music sticks to the mid-range, with Orlando occasionally providing harmony. The singing doesn't sound distinctively like Scholl, and it's disappointing that he makes virtually no use of the male falsetto tradition indigenous to the soul and R&B genres. The music was recorded live with Orlando's band Die Unerlösten and the Nüremberg Symphony, and audience responses are included: they're sluggish at first, but the audience warms to Scholl as the concert proceeds. This may be true of the wider circle of buyers, as well, but if there's a method to Scholl's madness here it's slow to show itself.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim