Jamie O'Neal


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At first, the cover to Jamie O'Neal's second album, Brave, is a little disarming -- with her bronze tan and blonde hair, O'Neal not only looks like Tara Reid's older sister, but looks like she's ready to leave country for pop. While it's easy to get past the initial shock of the image -- a picture is just a picture, after all, a way to bring attention to an album -- the music on Brave never quite answers the question of whether O'Neal wants to be a pop or country singer. Elements of both are scattered throughout the album, at times making for some jarring juxtapositions, as when "Naïve" with its looped drum machine butts heads with the mawksih working-class ballad "Somebody's Hero," and neither tune feels like it belongs on an album that contains such Gretchen Wilson-wannabe tunes as "Devil on the Left" and "Girlfriends" (whose call-and-response "kick ass" chorus is way too close to "Redneck Woman"). The frustrating thing about Brave is, O'Neal does both the MOR pop and mainstream country well, but they don't sit comfortably together on an album. There are too many shifts in tone and mood to make this album an easy album to hear from beginning to end and, worse of all, there's not a knockout single in either style to give listeners a way into the record. O'Neal has a powerful voice and is a sturdy songwriter who does sound good in both the pop and country settings, but she hasn't yet come up with a way to reconcile both sides within her music, nor has she committed to following one style or another. Consequently, Brave is promising and intriguing, but never quite satisfying.

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