Jennifer Love Hewitt

BareNaked

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Jennifer Love Hewitt was teen pop before teen pop was cool, but she sat out its glory years of 1999-2001, concentrating on her film career and transition from adolescence to adulthood. Her 2002 musical comeback, BareNaked, is the culmination of her journey to womanhood and, appropriately, it doggedly avoids any comparisons with teen pop. Where Pink chose Linda Perry as the collaborator, J-Love hired Meredith Brooks, who certainly does move Hewitt far away from teen pop, firmly planting her into adult alternative pop with a record that wants to sound like Michelle Branch but can't shake the fact that it sounds like Meredith Brooks. This is not a bad thing, since it's well-crafted, appealing melodic acoustic pop, not nearly as provocative as the coy cover art and title, all earnestly sung by Love. If it doesn't ring as authentically as, say, Branch or Vanessa Carlton, it's because at her core Hewitt is a show-biz kid, and she still sounds a bit like she's putting on a show. But, thanks to Brooks' sturdy craftsmanship, it's a pretty good show all the same, with plenty of good MOR tunes and a winning, warm production that is only ridiculous on the hippy-dippy voice-and-bongo interpretation of "Me and Bobby McGee." Many critics have laughed this off because it's Jennifer Love Hewitt and because it is unabashedly square mainstream pop, but it's very good in its style and is a nice new beginning for a singer/actress that seemed to be stuck in dance-pop.

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