Dancing Queen

For Grace Potter it's seemed inevitable for awhile now that the clock was about to strike Midnight. It started on 2010’s Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, when her personal look went glam, her hair turned permanently blonde and the album itself came in a reflective silver foil cover. Once a folky Vermont hippie girl, check the cover of her first record Original Soul, young Gracie has now become a rock star. And there’s nothing rock stars like more than reaching for hits, and here Potter’s naked attempt to pile up mainstream dance pop tunes will offend the purer souls among her ever-growing fanbase. If you were happy with her being a younger version of Bonnie Raitt, this won’t be your record.

Right from the opening line of the first number, “Hot To The Touch,” where she sings, “Forgive me if I’m not myself tonight,” it’s clear that Potter’s aiming for a different crowd on this her first solo record. The next track, the lead single, “Alive Tonight” is so bright and dancey and Katy Perry-like that it’s almost unlistenable to anyone over 16. After this excruciating, synth-ridden teen pop beginning, the soul burner, “Your Girl,” which has a huge hook in the chorus that’s impossible get out of your head, is a much needed return to something a bit more adult.

To be fair, Potter is one of the most vivacious and exciting live performers in music today, so this kind of bounce is not completely out of character and will satisfy the younger part of her fan base that comes to dance in front of the stage. For the uninitiated, Potter plays a mean organ, is the most attractive Flying V player in history (not that she had much competition) and has a wail that she can push to stratospheric heights. She also understands how to make a fringy dress shimmy and shake. Just a whiff of Tina Turner’s spirit lives somewhere in Potter’s very attractive presence.

Here however, Potter’s gone all girly pop and seems interested only in big catchy hit singles and attracting the Taylor Swift demographic. The thick reverb and constant multi-tracking of her voice is unnerving, though this record is about Potter being a pop singer and not much else. Fortunately, after the album’s lowest point, the genuinely weak, horribly produced, Top 40 slush of “Delirious,” she finally digs in as the album comes to a conclusion, and gets to the best songs like the moody “Low,” where she plays some guitar, “Nobody’s Born With A Broken Heart,” which has a Springsteen-like singalong chorus and “Let You Go,” a piano ballad that’s a flashback to the more serious minded and talented performer her fans will immediately recognize. Monolithic is being kind to the sonic qualities of a record obviously meant to compete in the world of NOW That’s What I Call Music! Top 40 compilations. Which means it’s loud and compressed though the LP has slightly more dynamic range than the CD.

It’s hard to begrudge a young talent like Potter her shot at a solo record, and making hits that will pay her grocery bills from years to come, if not forever. And letting your silly side shine through for an album is no crime. Hopefully though, this is only a moment in time and not a change of direction. It would be a sad waste for Potter’s authentic and very real musical talents to be wasted on more frivolity like this.

orgillian's picture

I agree totally with your review, and it's an unfortunate mis-step in her career artistically. Professionally? Who knows-it remains to be seen. We had the pleasure of seeing her with her Nocturnals play a good hour or so opening set for the Allman Brothers Band in Sept 2013 and were very impressed. So impressed in fact that I pre-ordered this very album from her website. I doubt I will do that if her next effort is in this same vein, although I wish her all the best in doing what she feels is necessary to make a living. After all, as fans we can bitch and moan all we wish, but in the end, the artists have got to eat too.

Devil Doc's picture

I remember Grace Potter as that Vt. hippie chick, after all she's a home girl. I've seen her perform for the price of a beer. I can't blame her for wanting to make a buck off of her talent, but this album is awful. Whoever produced it should be drawn and quartered and his head stuck on a pike at the city gates.

dalethorn's picture

I sampled all of her albums on iTunes, and while her 2007 album This is Somewhere has a little to recommend it, her albums became progressively worse after that. It's unusual for a rock performer to regress into a less mature format, but what's really unusual is to see this much production effort behind it.