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MELISSA ETHERIDGE

Your Little Secret
Rating: 5 (library disc)
   Ah, good old middle-of-the-road rock. It may no longer give you the thrill it did the first time you heard "Night Moves", but there's a certain comfort about those straight-eight rhythms and D major melodies - it's the pot roast of rock and roll. Melissa Etheridge is a past master of this style, and she's better than most because she has a terrific voice, smooth and clear and genuinely expressive. Your Little Secret is an attempt to alter her sound - her trademark 12-string acoustic is nowhere to be found - that features a tight rhythm section, particularly the drummer, and works in some impressive dynamics (listen to them quiet down to silence and then burst into the chorus of "I Really Like You"). There are even a few attempts to venture out of three-chord territory: "Nowhere to Go" has Celtic-sounding lick as the hook, and "An Unusual Kiss" is built on a U2-style chiming guitar line.
   Unfortunately, she didn't do much with her lyrics, which are the usual mishmash of hyperbole and cliché - for every evocative phrase ("black and white has melted into grey" to describe a morally ambiguous situation at dawn), there are half a dozen extreme images ("I want to lose all your demons", "they never woke up from the American dream") or refried proverbs masquerading as insight ("the only thing that stays the same is change"). Her themes run toward obsessive, even stalkerly, love songs, which are frankly kind of creepy. Coupled with lengthy running times, these lyrics give the impression of monomania - I'm not sure I'd want to be the object of any of these narrator's affections.
   Etheridge delivers in the vocal department, and she works this familiar rock territory well, but I think she needs to get out more.

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