When Juliana Hatfield was a kid, Olivia Newton-John was the first pop star to cast a spell upon her. The spell never lifted, not when Hatfield fell for punk as a teen, nor when she became a rocker herself in the 1980s, so there was only one path she could choose: to record an album where she could pledge allegiance to her idol. Make no mistake, 2018's Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John isn't ironic, nor is it an attempt to turn a perennially uncool pop singer hip. It is simply a love letter, one that conveys what Olivia Newton-John means to Juliana Hatfield. Appropriately enough for a child of the '70s, Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John evokes images of shag carpets, pastels, and lava lamps, but Hatfield isn't attempting a re-creation of an era: she's using elements from the past to paint a portrait of how the music felt to her at the time, and how it still speaks to her now. While she only rarely indulges in significant reworkings -- "Physical" is punched-up and punky, "Totally Hot" turns into a louche glam groove, "Make a Move on Me" becomes pleading power pop -- the takes often don't sound straight, thanks to the record's homespun charm and the smart arrangements. Hatfield is a sharp record-maker, understanding when to let harmonies pile up and when to let analog keyboards set the tone, a gift that turns Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John into a sumptuous aural pleasure. The album is also compelling as a testament to the power of fandom, illustrating how this kind of love is sustaining and creatively nourishing.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine