Cindy Wilson


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Change Review

by Mark Deming

Change is certainly an apt title for Cindy Wilson's first solo album. For nearly 40 years, Wilson has been singing with the B-52's, and their bouncy, upbeat sound -- and the distinctive vocal blend of Wilson and Kate Pierson -- has been her musical signature. But in 2016, Wilson released her first solo EP, and 2017's Change follows suit in mapping out a very different creative direction for her. Change walks away from the dance-friendly new wave attack of the B-52's; instead, with producers and co-songwriters Suny Lyons and Ryan Monahan, Wilson has opted for a cool, low-key sound dominated by electronics and clean guitars (though the band rocks out decisively on "Brother"). The arrangements mesh ambient synth patches with a subtle but insistent pulse, sometimes programmed and sometimes organic, and Wilson's vocals are breathy and thoughtful, meditating on her life and the world around her rather than getting the party started. This is music you could dance to, but you'd probably feel more comfortable swaying gently to the tracks, or simply listening attentively. In both theme and approach, Change is a 180-degree turn from the musical persona Wilson has presented since the late '70s, and it's pleasantly surprising that it works so well. Her whispery vocals are a big switch from her trademark technique, but she sounds smart and emotionally forthcoming on these tunes, speaking from the heart as she sings about love, family, loss, and life's many challenges with maturity and a quiet strength that make room for vulnerability. While the B-52's belatedly embraced electronics on 2008's Funplex, Change finds Wilson doing the same, but from a decidedly different vantage point, and it fits her beautifully; it's a successful musical reinvention that presents her talent in a whole new light.

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