Review Summary: Country-pop cowgirls have a good time, but seem too distracted by trying to keep both potential audiences doing the same.
“Are you ready for this?” question The JaneDear Girls a matter of seconds into their track “Merry Go Round.” Before we're even given a chance to respond, they follow up the question mere moments later with the line “I don't think so.” Presumptuous? Yeah, sure. That said, the thing is that it's difficult to prepare for the clash of styles that the JaneDear Girls put forth – particularly on tracks like this. Here, they've thrown twangy banjo and fiddle into a hip-hop beat derived from Queen's “We Will Rock You,” while charging rock guitar gets entangled with enough robotic AutoTune to make T-Pain look like Cher. This isn't so much a crossover of country-pop as it is a collision course – these are some bold blends put forth by the duo, and are certain to not sit well with purists on either side of the fence. In a way, however, that's exactly where the appeal lies in the debut self-titled album from the all-American twosome. They might just be throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks, but what they end up with is a beautiful mess regardless.
Some quick formalities: The JaneDear Girls are Susie Brown and Danelle Leverett. They sing, write or co-write every song on this album and play the guitar, mandolin, violin and banjo. They came together as a collaborative force in 2004, but had no attention thrown their way until as recently as 2010. Naturally, the album showcases a certain naivete which comes with most debuts, as well as that youthful exuberance that transcends genre and ends up in the recordings of anyone making music in their twenties or younger. Given the style of music in question, however, a lot of The JaneDear Girls
may come across as over-earnest or gimmicky because of how darn into it they sound.
As much as they might not want it to be, many will see The JaneDear Girls
as a product, rather than an artistic expression. The bright production gloss of John Rich (Lonestar, Big & Rich, The Celebrity Apprentice
) will certainly add weight to this argument. There are moments here, though, that display exactly what it is that can make these girls stand out from a thousand other female duos with similar hopes and dreams. One needn't look further than the very first track, “Wildflower,” one of the most infectious and unfathomably catchy pop tunes of the past twelve months or so. A steady driving beat comes from the heart of the song, surrounded by mandolin and electric guitar, lead by a tough-girl attitude and the most hairbrush-ready country-pop chorus you could imagine. It's a textbook example of pop that rocks, but thankfully the JaneDear Girls have enough character to make it their own.
The JaneDear Girls
is about as worthy an introduction as Brown and Leverett could create at this time. The choruses are big and brash, memorable within the first listen; and the vocals are invariably strong, particularly when working together in sweet harmony like the slower “Saturdays in September” and “Never Let You Go.” As aforementioned, the eclecticism on display is of significant note for pop fans who prefer their country interventions with a bit more sting in the tail than, say, Lady Antebellum. Sure, the girls might spend a little too much time trying to lyrically convince you just how country they really are – see “Shotgun Girl” and “Lucky You;” the latter for its reference to “shootin' my first buck,” if anything. That said, find a debut record without identity issues in some shape or form and you'll certainly find a surprised music fan attached to it.
Realistically, these girls are nowhere near the position that they aimed to find themselves upon completion of this record. With this in mind, it's surely only a matter of time until they have found what truly works for them and create an album that trims the fat, hones in on a stronger sound and – ironically enough – tries a little less hard to be liked. Pop can still be a natural process, no matter what kinda boots you're wearing.