f there were ever any better analogy for Lindsay Lohan’s meteoric rise in 2004, look no further than the capstone movie of her career thus far: Mean Girls. Smartly dressed, down-to-earth teen goes to school for the first time after being home schooled for years, has trouble making the right friends, gets a break and falls into a group of the most popular girls in the school ostensibly to spy on them and eventually fully inhabits their group and becomes the leader, going even further than those that once led them. It’s that moment where Lohan fully inhabits the “mean girls” attitude that’s hard to pinpoint exactly, but what happens afterward is textbook: backlash is immediate and strong, and there’s little she can to combat it. Luckily, Mean Girls is a movie. A few well placed scenes and apologies, and everyone’s happy. In real life, Lohan has suffered the backlash associated with media overexposure and the fact that she likes to party.
And while it’s a noble crusade (what’s wrong with partying anyway?), it certainly doesn’t make for a good single, let alone one as limply dirty as “Rumors”. In fact, for a girl, that has been tagged as America’s next sweetheart by some media outlets, it might be the worst choice of subject matter for the opening statement from a girl that automatically has more to prove to audiences because of her stature as an actress. Unfortunately, “Rumors” is about as good as it gets.
Unlike Ashlee Simpson, who believably and expertly raced through twelve bubble-grunge tunes on this year’s Autobiography, or Hilary Duff, who did the same to lesser success, Lohan seems unable to pick a sound and stick with it. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing, if she had the voice to capture the dynamics of the various sonics that permeate Speak, but quite simply she doesn’t. A reedy voice that rarely touches on anything near the sound of true emotion, Lohan’s voice is a weak vehicle to ride over the sometimes soaring trip-hop of the title song or the guitar and string-laden finale of “Something I Never Had”.
It’s not that the music’s bad. “Anything But Me” is a buoyant analogue to Simpson’s “Surrender” and “To Know Your Name” sounds like a B-side from Stylus favorite Darren Hayes’ latest. But for every moment of breathtaking studio wizardry, there’s duds like “Rumors” or the plodding “Very Last Moment in Time” which serve to mar the end of the record.
But, again, Lohan’s voice betrays her along the way. Aside from the promising opening duo of “First” and “Nobody ‘Til You”, there’s little to suggest that she put the amount of time into recording this record between jetting off to another shoot for the myriad movies that she’s set to appear in that it would take to engage with the producers and writers of these songs. As such, Speak comes off exactly as you think it might: one of those vanity projects that’s easy to hate. In a year that’s seen promising work from her contemporary multi-talent stars, Speak is the worst of the bunch.
Reviewed by: Charles Merwin
Reviewed on: 2004-12-07