Amy Diamond

This Is Me Now

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Amy Diamond's tricky. She was a young teenager when this debut album was released -- a preteen, in fact, when some of it was recorded (though you'll have a hard time believing that when you hear her big brassy voice; and the cover photo makes it look like she's about six.) But her recordings are certainly more sophisticated than you would typically expect of "children's music." And -- unlike the bulk of pop made by (and for) teenagers -- neither do they attempt to mimic the forms and themes of "adult" pop, at least not in the familiar manner of teen-centric rock, R&B, and dance-pop. In that sense, Diamond isn't pretending to be something that she's not -- but it's still remarkably hard to determine who, exactly, she is, the album title notwithstanding: This Is Me Now may be chock-full of personality in a musical sense, but it's bizarrely lacking in identity. On the opening "Hello!," Diamond invokes Marilyn Monroe, Lady Di, and Martin Luther King, Jr over a bouncy, horn-led skank, announcing a search for a new superstar (and "future millionaire") with the same peculiar, generationally inappropriate sensibility as Hilary Duff pining for "another James Dean." Now, Diamond doesn't go so far as to explicitly recommend herself for the role (though she does reiterate the title rather forcefully), but the suggestion is there nonetheless: it's quite a splashy way to introduce yourself to the world. Actually, she had already introduced herself, and made quite a splash, in her native Sweden at least, with the swaggering, utterly infectious "What's in It for Me," an electronic-tinged pop-reggae tune that finds Diamond castigating a would-be lover for his inconstancy (most disturbing line, coming from a 12-year-old: "You can't have this candy/and keep one foot outside the door.") Once you get used to the idea that her character in this song is just that -- a role she's playing, like the hammy, scene-stealing kid actor she was brought up to be -- you have to admit that she's got the chops to give a fully convincing performance, and her sassy, commanding delivery here makes this the obvious highlight of the album. It's not the only one -- the piano power ballad "Another Day" and the driving perseverance anthem "Champion" (complete with cheerleader spelling in the mid-section) also stand out -- but there's really nothing else as musically compelling, or as flat-out fun. The final two tracks -- faithful covers of Alicia Keys' "I Ain't Got You" and "Tomorrow" (from Annie -- in an orchestral arrangement that brings out all its treacly glory) -- feel like tacked-on bonuses, making the album seem particularly slight, even if they're enjoyable (impressive even) for what they are. Ultimately, they tend to confirm the nagging sense that this is a kid playing dress-up, albeit a kid with a truly tremendous set of pipes, playing in exquisitely tailored costumes.

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