Michelle Branch
The Spirit Room


5.0
classic

Review

by Nathan Flynn CONTRIBUTOR (69 Reviews)
November 27th, 2011 | 29 replies


Release Date: 2001 | Tracklist

Review Summary: She's only 17, but that's old enough for me

Remember when it seemed unnatural for a teenager to be a bona fide star? Back when it was weird to see 12-year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes on the red carpet at the Oscars clinging to hope that she might win the Best Actress Oscar? Well, things have changed since then. It seems like every single day a new Greyson Chance is popping up on Good Morning America, primped and primed to perform his cover of “Bad Romance.” Meanwhile, pop radio is dominated by the likes of teen songstresses Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez. Melissa Joan Hart seemed to sum up modern pop culture best when she said, “If Clarissa [Explains it All] was on the air today, I would have a record deal, a hit movie and a clothing line.” This isn’t hyperbolic, it’s just a fact.

So why does all this matter? Because, like Ms. Hart, Michelle Branch was overlooked by the media that now covets talented teenagers. Branch, who was 17 when The Spirit Room was released, never had a chance to make it big like she would if she was recording today. Yes, The Spirit Room went platinum, but Taylor Swift’s Speak Now did it in one week instead of the eight months it took Branch to reach the same sales milestone. Instead of being able to ride a media hype train all the way to success, Branch had to get by on good, old-fashioned musical and vocal talent. In a way, she paved the way for teen songbirds like Swift. The best example of this is Branch’s first single, “Everywhere.” “Everywhere,” is a rather standard pop radio song; a description of how it feels when you have a crush on somebody for the first time. But, underneath the overtly ‘high school fantasy’ exterior, is a description of actual feelings. Branch doesn’t feel vengeance or wistfulness, she just feels and describes her genuine emotions.

The Spirit Room panders toward the actual for two reasons. The first being rather obvious: Branch wrote all of her own music. Despite a few rhymes that border on second-grade level- “some say I’m paranormal/so I just bend their spoon- she does an excellent job with communicating as well as with writing hooks. “All You Wanted,” is probably the catchiest song ever written while the chorus to “You Get Me” drips with feeling and yearning. Branch isn’t immune to revealing her aspirations at popularity and having a boyfriend like every other high schooler, but she does so in a mature enough way that it’s easy to forget that she’s in high school. There’s no name-calling or bashing, no tear-stained confessionals or guy worshipping, but again description. Branch does an excellent job of laying all of her emotion on the line- judgment be damned. This album isn’t about pandering to a bunch of tweens who will spout off about how ‘Michelle Branch writes [my] life,’ it’s about Michelle Branch translating her feelings to words. That these words happen to be relatable is an unintended consequence inherent in teenage writing.

As far as Branch’s vocal delivery goes, it’s more or less peerless for someone so young. She sounds like a young Sheryl Crow, and pours her heart into every line. You can almost feel the passion extended by Branch and poured into the album. The songs are all different enough to allow her to show off her range as well as her skill on guitar and piano. The album obviously caters towards Branch’s skillset of softer pop, but she experiments with genres like pop-rock and country too, refusing to limit herself and therefore being typecast. Even the lovelorn ballad “Goodbye to You,” which could have been a fluff track, is handled with vocal maturity and a serious attitude rarely exhibited by young artists, especially those that have been turned into a commodity by the corporations.

In retrospect, it’s probably for the best that nobody tried to commercialize Michelle Branch into a commodity. Had somebody noticed her talent after her first album, Broken Bracelets, and tried to make her pander to the crowd that she already writes to unintentionally, it would have changed her. Little moments like the record scratching on “You Set Me Free,” and her foray into country “Here With Me,” may have been eliminated and made the record less personal, less authentic. In a cultural climate that values the supposed authenticity of teenage words, it’s nice to hear a teen that didn’t feel the need to sound real- she was just born that way.



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user ratings (55)
Chart.
3.7
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Pop Rock done the right way....


Comments:Add a Comment 
FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
November 27th 2011


9060 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

This is probably in no way, shape or form a 5, but it was just the perfect storm of being a teenager
lately and this album is the perfect soundtrack. I'm sure I'll hate it in 4 months but hey, that's why
subjectivity is great.

Gyromania
November 27th 2011


15941 Comments


Great review, dude. A 5 for this seems almost unjustifiable (I say this having not heard the album but knowing that many people on and off of this site aren't enamored by it), but you presented a good case. I wonder if I'd like this.

FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
November 27th 2011


9060 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Thanks brotha. I really dig female pop singers so I'm predisposed to liking it. You should give it a shot though, it's really cool.

Tyrael
November 27th 2011


20928 Comments


This can never be as good as Siberia or The Family Jewels (my fav female pop albums evar) but good review

FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
November 27th 2011


9060 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

It's better than Siberia- albeit a totally different genre.

Willie
Moderator
November 27th 2011


16054 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Excellent album. One of my favs of the genre.

Tyrael
November 27th 2011


20928 Comments


It's better than Siberia- albeit a totally different genre.

Dude wat I need to hear this

Gyromania
November 27th 2011


15941 Comments


Trey loves it, that's good enough for me! Will get.

FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
November 27th 2011


9060 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

^ As if you need more than a FromDaHood rec :p

iFghtffyrdmns
November 27th 2011


7047 Comments


knowing you, nate, nothing about this review/rating surprises me in the very least.

Activista anti-MTV
November 27th 2011


3146 Comments


Been a while since I listened to Michelle Branch

FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
November 27th 2011


9060 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

That worries me Eric. Am I becoming complacent?

BigHans
November 28th 2011


26454 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

All You Wanted is one of the best pop songs of the era.

FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
November 29th 2011


9060 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I prefer everywhere actually

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
November 29th 2011


28695 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

if you want to

i can save you

i can take you

awayyyyyyyyyyyyy from here

Digging: Jessie Ware - Tough Love

BigHans
November 29th 2011


26454 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

SO LONEY INSIDE

SO BUSY OUT THERE

AND ALL YOU WANTED WAS SOMEBODY WHO CARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRES

Activista anti-MTV
November 29th 2011


3146 Comments


rawk

mvdu
December 1st 2011


608 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Nice review. The reason I give it a 5 is that I've had it for years and still think it is a near-perfect pop album. It remains a favorite.

FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
December 13th 2011


9060 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

New song is pretty sweet if y'all haven't checked it out yet

Parallels
September 6th 2013


6643 Comments


my gf loves this album



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