Reba McEntire

All the Women I Am

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When Reba McEntire released Keep on Loving You in 2009, it debuted at number one on the Billboard Top 200 and Country charts simultaneously; it scored three Top 20 singles including a number one, and despite mixed reviews, it went gold. All the Women I Am is a brazen attempt to follow that success and prove that despite her long career in a fickle marketplace, she can still run with contemporary country's young mavericks. Nowhere is this more evident than on the album's first single "Turn on the Radio," which borrows heavily from Carrie Underwood's uptempo, rollicking interpretation of country pop/rock. Beginning with a distorted, '80s-sounding hard rock guitar riff, it contains a slew of synths and an overly sweet female backing chorus. McEntire offers her throatiest contralto and references texting, Twitter, and club DJs in the lyrics. While Underwood is the obvious reference point, those who can remember it can go all the way back to Shania Twain's Come on Over album for the big, cavernous drum sounds producer Dan Huff gets, and for the hook in the refrain. The track is followed by a contemporary country interpretation of "If I Were a Boy" -- yes, the Beyonce hit, though it's barely recognizable here. It contains none of the original's drama; in its place is a failed attempt at a soft rock power ballad. Everything, from songs and arrangements to production tries hard to sound on the contemporary edge, but comes off as underscoring that Underwood has the corner on this sound. The title track with its big brass -- and a sax solo that channels Clarence Clemons -- tries for the nightclub (not honky tonk) dancefloor with a retro Muscle Shoals-style horn chart that sounds so compressed, the brass sounds thin and watery rather than edgy and hot. The guitars feel at odds with McEntire's voice, and the inclusion of a banjo makes this track sound so contrived, it's almost laughable. These songs don't measure up, though the more natural-sounding balladry of "Somebody's Chelsea" (that has its roots in a scene from the film P.S. I Love You), "The Day She Got Divorced," or the sassy blues of "A Little Want To," do. Ultimately, All the Women I Am it falls flat; it feels awkward in its stylistic mimicry, and has no center. One of McEntire's gifts as a singer has always been her ability to make virtually any song she took on sound believable, as if she wrote it. That's simply not the case here.

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