Lucy Woodward

While You Can

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Young female musicians' popular takeover of radio and MTV in 2002 and 2003 wholly eradicated the marketplace of Britney Spears and her ilk. The benefit of this is a matter of personal taste. But what is clear is that the success of artists like Avril Lavigne, Michelle Branch, and Vanessa Carlton set the pop music cycle in motion once again, and the music industry clamored to strike with the next anti-Britney while the iron was hot. Transplanted New Yorker Lucy Woodward gets her chance with While You Can, her Atlantic debut. Co-produced by John Shanks, While You Can reassembles many of the elements that made stars of such Shanks-produced artists as Branch and Sheryl Crow, wrapping Woodward's strong, sexy, and slightly Kim Carnes-y voice around homogenous alternative pop arrangements that nonetheless make for memorable tunes. Following a trend established by Lavigne, Woodward's single "Dumb Girls" was originally introduced online via the AOL Breakers Series. Woodward and her song were featured on demographic-specific pages like "AOL Teen," and soon the track had been streamed over 500,000 times. When "Dumb Girls" arrived at radio stations, the Internet exposure ensured a fan base would already be thriving. The punchy, mid-tempo song finds Woodward kicking herself for letting the catch of the day go, with the tagline "Something like this only happens to dumb girls." Complete with teeth-baring mentions of flipping the bird and a few low-level cuss words, the song is a perfectly packaged advertisement for Woodward and While You Can -- gritty, confident, but still romantic. While You Can is loaded with knockout hooks ("Trust Me [You Don't Wanna See This] and "Trouble With Me" are standouts), and a hint of soul ("The Breakdown") amongst the predominantly pop-alternative arrangements works well with Woodward's powerful, expressive voice. But the record is ultimately derivative of what has come before. It's a drawback to the artists above, as well as previous players like Natalie Imbruglia and Nikka Costa, that the perfected sheen of major-label production tends to dilute the musician's individual creativity. Even when she has songwriting input, as Woodward does, the formula is usually what ends up shining through. And when it's applied to an entire album, that formula grows tiresome.

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