LeAnn Rimes

Twisted Angel

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Freed from her lawsuits, separated from the managerial control of her father, and now an adult, LeAnn Rimes redefines herself as a mainstream pop vocalist with Twisted Angel. If the title and the tarted-up sultry photographs didn't offer a clue that Rimes is no longer a country vocalist, the very first cut immediately offers proof that she's positioning herself somewhere between grown-up dance-pop and youthful adult contemporary. This is music for the hip middle of the road, then, which isn't a bad career move at all, since there's a void there with the absence of Whitney Houston, the breakdown of Mariah Carey, and Christina Aguilera's bizarre insistence to strip instead of sing. Rimes certainly has the voice for the crossover she desires, and the production is commercial, glossy, and ready for the radio, often appealingly so. All the basics are in place, but there are a couple of stumbling blocks on the road to success. First, there may not be an audience for it: even though this is well done, it is so pop it will alienate her older fans, and she needs to win over an older audience that may not be taken with her newly sexualized image. Second, the songwriting is a little uneven; often, it's very good workmanlike mainstream pop, but there are a couple of duds (namely, the irritating chorus on the "sassy" "Trouble With Goodbye"), and even the best material is melodic without being hooky or memorable. But the biggest problem is that the production and attitude on Twisted Angel kind of fall through the cracks in 2002, when teen pop is dead and mainstream pop is veering away from divas and toward quirkier, friendlier singers like Vanessa Carlton, Avril Lavigne, and Michelle Branch. Twisted Angel is far from that attitude -- it sounds like a holdover from 1996, and it's not bad at all according to those standards. But it does sound dated. This isn't a bad direction for LeAnn Rimes by any means, but next time around, she'd be better served by less Desmond Child and a sharper set of songs, plus a production that would ease her onto the modern mainstream radio where she so desperately wants to be.

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