The Wonderground

Boy Meets Girl

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The Wonderground Review

by Johnny Loftus

In the late '80s, George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam were money. They wrote "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" and "How Will I Know?" for Whitney Houston, and created the enduring soft rock fave "Waiting for a Star to Fall" under their own Boy Meets Girl nameplate. However, the hits had dried up by 1991's New Dream, and the duo disappeared for the duration of the decade. In 2003 they returned to the game. Self-issued under the extended moniker "BoyMeetsGirl Music," The Wonderground is a set of literate adult contemporary that grapples directly with their fall from grace while putting a hopeful face on the present. Music and production styles have shifted drastically since the early '90s. It would be so easy for Merrill and Rubicam to busy up their songs with the tools of today's trade -- pitch correction, Pro Tools, and processed instrumentation. But while there are a few well-placed drum loops (particularly on the Savage Garden-ish "This Chronic Pain") and a lush bed of harmonies that drift throughout the record, The Wonderground focuses largely on the solid songwriting that always served Boy Meets Girl best. "I'm doing everything to make it new," Merrill sings in the lush "Climbing." It's an obvious device, the old bootstrap-pulling pop song. But his mixing of metaphor with bitter economic reality -- "You will not devour my soul/Or take my house" -- makes the track resonate. The title track and "Drug of Choice" are in contrast to the album's more upbeat material. Alighting on a patch of cirrus somewhere between Sarah McLachlan and Enya, Rubicam dwells on a loss of faith and direction, and the emergence of a new existence. In "Drug," she replaces gods and real live drugs with thoughts of her beloved. "Second Chance" is the clearest statement of Boy Meets Girl's return, and one of The Wonderground's strongest moments, combining the soft rock accessibility of the record's faster material with the atmosphere of its moody midsection. Merrill and Rubicam harmonize beautifully as they sing about freeing the ghosts of the past; the arrangement is filled in with rousing church organ and only slight touches of modernism, marrying the track to traditionalism while comfortably referencing the current sound. The Wonderground doesn't pack any knockout hit single punches. Instead of trying desperately to recapture their past, Boy Meets Girl have made a quiet charmer of a record that mixes personal journeys with accessible, mature soft rock.

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