Rachel Stevens
Come and Get It
2005
A-



the Come And Get It campaign has boasted some cracking singles—exciting, slightly bizarre electro-pop yes, but albums are funny things. They're supposed to be about artistic integrity, sonic and thematic cohesion and... wait, no, they're not. What's so horrible with something that just sounds good from start to finish?

In these days where the biggest selling album of the week is often a Now compilation album rather than a single-artist work, fuck cohesion and definitely fuck the concept of “the artist.” Product, not process, is what satisfies the people who actually buy records and listen to them, so let's not romanticize the purity of creative process when the results of coldly calculated machinations—Machiavellian record producers grabbing the best songs available for their favored daughter—are so endlessly delightful. You want continuity and consistency? Come And Get It is 13 quality electro-pop songs, all sung by the same woman. What more continuity do you need?

And what songs they are. You already know the singles are kiloton bombs of blissful pop, but the album tracks don't drag either—lavishly produced and catchy enough to make this an album that people on her message boards will still be arguing about the single choices from it should Rachel be around in five years time. "Some Girls" is included as a merciful gesture to those who refused to fork out for the Funky Dory reissue, and the other Richard X-produced track, "Crazy Boys" is nearly as good: stammering drum beats, heavenly oohs, and a delicious atmosphere of menace in Rachel's voice to match the strong yet submissive persona suggested by the lyrics. "Every Little Thing" sounds like Diana Ross's "Chain Reaction" swaying despite, or perhaps because of, heavy sedation or too much sugar. "I Will Be There" is a heavenly lullaby, multitracked Rachels over a Pet Shop Boys-issued lawsuit waiting to happen.

The lows are only comparative. Even the closest thing to a longueur, "Je M'Appelle," is a fine song with a sneaky hook that just sounds a bit dated, which shows more than it otherwise would because its faux-R&B comes off second best next to its surroundings.

"Nothing Good About This Goodbye" is slow to reveal its charms, but eventually shows itself as a stunner. Rachel revives the Alexis Strum composition, adding some harmonies and a tougher beat and retaining the song’s detached look at a just-expired relationship with just the right amount of care, but just enough deadness to be effective.

Often accused of being blank, an honest listen to this album reveals that charge as baseless. She may not have the best voice, but she's expressive and her phrasing is marvelous, especially on the slightly-too-infrequent ice-queen spoken-word bits littered throughout. Witness how she makes her indie boy paramour in "Negotiate With Love" seem as tiny as his 12-inch records with the demolishing line, "Next thing I know you're playing me crap.” She sounds appropriately helpless on the ode to destructive on-again/off-agains, “I Said Never Again (But Here We Are),” which sounds akin to Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People”.

She also does confident dance with warmth and charm. "Funny How" stands as an obvious single-in-waiting with its gigantic electro hooks steeped in mid-80s pop cool, and the way Rachel wraps herself around the lyrics that spill over lines and stick in your ears is to die for. "It's All About Me" may irritate purists with its sample from the Cure's "Lullaby" more than it delights pop fans, but it's still a solid album track on which Rachel's personality carries the chorus.

The strange thing is that Rachel could easily carve out a name for herself in the art of being famous for being famous without bothering, and the bigwigs bankrolling this record—19 Productions—are pressing on despite disappointing chart positions for the singles, surely knowing this album will almost certainly not recoup its cost; a Song Cycle for the noughties, if you will. And yet no expense has been spared in the acquisition of songs or the production. Rachel sounds like she's having a great time, too.

It's very much a labor of love by some record executives, some faceless writers, and the pretty one out of S Club 7, all equally determined to bring this album to you despite general public indifference to the product and the lady herself. You could mount a case that it's only a great album because of the expertise of those involved. You could even say that Rachel could be taken out of the equation, if you're so cynical. Those more open-minded might simply declare Come And Get It to be the best pop album of 2005.


Reviewed by: Edward Oculicz
Reviewed on: 2005-10-06
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