Emmy Rossum

Inside Out

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In 2007, it's almost expected for young actresses to be multi-media mavens, pursuing stardom not just on the screen but on record, perhaps even on TV and tabloids. The way most teen thrushes do this is by going pop (think Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson, etc.) but Emmy Rossum is not just any young actress, a fact that if it isn't borne out by her movie CV -- she was Sean Penn's dead daughter in Mystic River and the lead in Joel Schumacher's version of The Phantom of the Opera -- it surely is by her debut album, Inside Out which is an ocean away from fizzy dance-pop. In its gently swaying melodies and cool textures, Inside Out resembles nothing so much as a teeny version of Watermark, lacking the spooky Celtic overtones of Enya's 1988 masterwork but retaining the same dreamy, shimmering qualities of her music, then marrying that wet, glistening sound to a relatively updated production (mainly heard via skittering electronic rhythms) and lovelorn pop tunes. Naturally, this makes for a much lighter record than Enya's, one that's closer in spirit to an old-fashioned teen-pop record because it's all about love, sweetness, and dreams, and the remarkable thing is that all this earnest adolescence doesn't jar with the ethereal music. Surely it's not nearly as weighty as Watermark or its other close cousin, Milla Jovovich's 1994 cult classic The Divine Comedy, but Rossum's gangly, heartfelt hybrids do feel genuine, as they're as often as awkward as they are polished, with the misfires being as endearing as the successes because they're both sincere. When Inside Out clicks, it's due to Rossum and her collaborator, producer/songwriter Stuart Brawley, crafting this meditative music to sound and play like a pop tune. When it doesn't work, it's nevertheless interesting, the product of a music theater major who writes poetry in her spare time and is committed to her artistic vision, which is certainly many miles away from any of her actress peers. And even if Inside Out isn't your personal cup of tea, it's hard to deny that this is an original, striking debut, proving that not only does Rossum not sound like Lindsay, Paris, Britney etc., but that she has no interest in competing with them at all.

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