Kristen Chenoweth – Some Lessons Learned review

Kristen Chenoweth can sing. Only an autopsy will reveal where, in the cavity of her stunted frame, she manages to store all the air necessary to wail like she does on “Change,” “I Was Here,” Borrowed Angels,” and pretty much in general. And her first solo album, a mix of rock and pop paying heavy homage to Nashville’s signature twang, will surely grace karaoke halls from Riverside County to Mississippi, West Virginia to Walla Walla, Washington. The plaguing question that arises is, Why this type of country? She explained as a guest judge on So You Think Can Dance that her Oklahoma roots give her a soft spot for the sounds of her upbringing. Ok, fine. But why emulate Shania Twain and Faith Hill? Why try so hard to be Carrie Underwood when there are exemplary female artists in this genre like Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline and the obvious Chenoweth comparison, the big, bad baby mama of the modern country sound, Dolly freaking Parton?

Her extreme accent seems put upon, like Jessica Simpson and Kid Rock when they realized they’d lost favor with all but the whitest demographic living in the deepest South. The swingy whine of her vocal tone comes effortlessly and satisfies the country quota, but it’s hiding in the background of the thought that she has never sounded quite like that when she speaks. It’s an interesting phenomenon specific to country music because half the time you can’t tell that The Beatles are British or that English is not Shakira’s first or even second language. (Unless you pay attention to Shakira’s lyrics – those are some shaky metaphors.) But like Lauryn Hill, Chenoweth cops an accent and dialect that are not a necessary birthright in order to appeal to a certain group.

The album is not without merit, however. In many respects its construction is solid, enjoyable CUHN-tray. “I Didn’t” uses a snappy and circular humor that induces involuntary smiling and head nodding. “I Want Somebody (Bitch About)” has a personable way of relating us to our best relationships and their idiotically exhausting qualities. “Fathers and Daughters” is the quintessential tale of a daddy’s girl, which the world of middle class white people love to dance to at weddings.

These songs are playlist worthy enough to warrant a listen, but ultimately Chenoweth’s extravagant talent would make a lot more sense portrayed organically.

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