Review Summary: These Songs Of Life should have been Songs Of Death; the death of Michaels' career, that is.
Sometimes, being young in your mind is not necessarily a good thing, as any number of washed-up rockstars with dwindling sales will attest. However, someone should inform the king of washed-up rockstars with dwindling sales, Bret Michaels, of this fact, as for the last decade he has been desperately trying to pretend he is not in his forties and still has what it takes to rock. As the pitiful results of his solo career will attest, he doesn’t.
2003’s Songs Of Life
is no less than the fourth product of this solo journey, following on the footsteps of a soundtrack (to Michaels’ own movie!) and a couple of bootleggish, out-of-print albums, one of which consisted of a half-interviews, half-songs format and was appropriately called Ballads, Blues, And Stories
. With those albums having become scarce in the interim years, Michaels rescues the odd song from them to boost up the ranks of this allegedly new album, pitting them next to twelve actually new compositions devised in partnership with guitarist Cliff Calabro. The results, unfortunately, are as mediocre as they were the first time around.
In fact, although a number of years have passed, Michaels seems to have learned nothing at all, as a good portion of what’s wrong with this album can be attributed to the one factor that’s been consistently destroying the singer’s career: the clumsy attempts at modernity. A good third of this album still devotes itself to rewriting Power To The People
’s C.C.DeVille-penned track, I Hate Every Bone In Your Body But Mine
; the problem is, this sort of teen-punk pastiche did not work then, and it does not work now. It is almost painful to witness Michaels trying to make his usually warm register as nasally as possible, all while reciting lyrics that would have bothered a seventeen-year-old. When presented with such a degrading spectacle, one can only comment that mid-life crises are all fine and dandy, but should under no circumstance be committed to any sort of lasting media format. Meaning: do not ever make your andropause into an album.
What’s more, even the safe, typical folk-country-rock songs seem lifeless this time around. Most of them trudge by eliciting little to no reaction from the listener, which, while admittedly a step up from the punk-pop tracks, is still far less than a good hard rock album should be able to do. Even when the odd strong track pops up (like Raine
or the bland-but-listenable title track), it is plagued by the other bane of this album: the lyrics. Once-decent storyteller Bret Michaels seems to have lost his flair, and here he is confined to either ripping off his old themes (often stealing lines from other, better-known songs) or creating verses so forced and hackneyed they should rightfully make him blush. The main offender here is Bittersweet
, an asinine concoction of seventh-grade couplets and first-grade bravado that not even Blink themselves would have made credible. It’s My Party
, on the other hand, is a spoiled teenager’s rude retort to his parents, while Loaded Gun
is a dunderheaded attempt at sexual bravado based around a single-entendre so flimsy, it would most likely result in slaps than kisses. Saving the day – almost – are the two older tracks, with Party Rock Band
bringing its wiseass view of rock’n’roll life and Stay With Me
managing to tell a story the way Bret used to be able to do. However, once they do roll around, they are too little too late: by that point, Songs Of Life
is almost beyond salvage.
So what is redeemable about this album? Well, as said, Raine
is a semi-strong track, the title track is pleasantly bland, and tearjerkers One More Day
and Stay With Me
are good representatives of the genre, even if Michaels himself has done better. Of the rest, very little is worth your time, as is par for the course with Michaels’ career. In all fairness, these Songs Of Life
should have been Songs Of Death
; the death of Michaels’ career, that is. Unfortunately, he managed to recover and continues to churn out periodic slabs of mediocrity to this day. Do yourself a favor and get out of his downward spiral while you still can; otherwise, you may find yourself presenting date reality-shows sooner than you think…
Songs Of Life
Party Rock Band