Jessica Riddle's debut album, Key of a Minor, is an assured pop collection disguising the fact that the songs are dark and often troubling. Though she was only 19 when this record was released, Riddle proved she was able to articulate feelings and situations with more assurance than many women twice her age. This is not teeny bopper pop by a long shot. From the wry, feminist "I'm Sorry" ("I know I can't run the world/'cause I can't even decide what to make for dinner/I know that you are stronger than me/because you are a man/thank God you are a man") to the spare, haunting "Gone" ("I know you're gone/I know you're leaving me behind your dreams/behind your prayers"), she moves you with eloquence while taking a knife to your heart. And, yes, that's a good thing. What makes these musings different from many female singer/songwriters' is that she's personal without being precious. She even conveys truth on a cover of the Replacements' "Sadly Beautiful," a song she is years too young to have lived. Whether it's a playful, sexy declaration of love in the funky, doo wop-py "Symphony" ("I have a leg to pretzel/while I'm watching cable/you make me happy/when I feel too much"), a tribute to the perfect classmate in "For Wowser" ("sixteen and the queen of high-school land/I couldn't understand/how she could be so pretty"), or an accusing and hopeful skewering of her parents in "Your Girl" ("she stood up to you that one day/'cause that's her right/and that's the way/you taught your girl"), Riddle plumbs such emotional depths with her voice and her songwriting you can't wait to hear what she'll be capable of once she has another 20 years under her belt.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Bryan Buss