Fri Oct 04 2013

She’s not incredibly unique or groundbreaking, but there’s no denying the vocal talent of Minneapolis chanteuse Caroline Smith. Her ability to trill and arpeggiate her words, her sweet harmonies, sensual enunciation and judicious vibrato are the main selling point of her new album Half About Being A Woman. It’s a far cry from her indie-folk gig with The Good Night Sleeps; there’s nothing indie or folk about this collection of sugary pop tunes, but Smith sounds right at home in this world. Judging solely by this album, she’s got the chops and charisma to compete with Katy Perry or Miley Cyrus any day, and unfortunately, about the same array of vapid subject matter. Yes, begging men to stay with you, or proudly not begging men to stay with you, or telling men that you’ll let them dominate you, or demanding that men buy you stuff—these are all typical modern R&B fodder, but they don’t need to be. The kicker is this lyrical rant from the inventively-titled “Buy Me Something”: “Don’t get me wrong/‘Cause I know what all the feminists think/Just ‘cause I’m strong/An independent woman/That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t/Buy me something baby”. Assuming no hint of irony, that is some head-scratchingly annoying shit right there, from a linguistic standpoint as well as a feminist one. Sure, it’s all in good fun, just pop music, right? But I know a lot of fun, fluffy pop music that actually makes sense, believe it or not.

Kind of a pity, because "Buy Me Something" is an otherwise cleverly arranged, irresistible dance nugget, and if you're in a club dancing, who cares? I heartily concur with this sentiment, and if you gloss over the lyrics on this album, there's not much to find fault with. Smith evokes a more slinky Sheryl Crow on tracks like "All That I Know Is (I'm Your Baby)" and "Kind Of Man", and the early days of Mariah Carey (stylistically if not in terms of voice) on "Half About Being A Woman" and "Child Of Moving On", a pretty great song in all respects. The music is polished and pleasant, and to be honest, Smith's vocal talents sound more at home in R&B than they do in anything resembling folk. Half About Being A Woman is slick and rewarding on most counts; just don't inspect it too closely.

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