It is hard to believe that a curly haired, talented young Soprano Sax player could have garnered as much criticism as Kenny G Much like his Adult Contemporary Pop brethren that he epitomizes, Kenny G has been given a very bad rap over his career. Although he may be a favourite of parents worldwide, Kenny G has turned into one of those artists that teenagers worldwide shudder at the thought of, describing him as 'That boring old crap my parents listen to.' Sadly due to the fact that Kenny G transcends the pop genre into Jazz, his music has also been harshly criticized by the Jazz world as well, usually for being uninspired and repetitive.
Kenny G has never professed to be the next John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins or Charlie Parker on the Saxophone. Although for some reason, many people judge Kenny G based on the standards set out before him by Soprano Sax virtuosos. When in reality this is a narrow-minded and slanted measure of comparison. Kenny G is a Contemporary Pop artist in every sense of the genre. Despite the number of people that loathe the music that Kenny G makes, he has become somewhat of a hit in America and other English language countries. Breathless
has sold over eight million copies in America alone, a figure that helped it rocket up the charts to number two on the Billboard Top 200. It is easy to see how Kenny G. has appealed so greatly to adults worldwide. His Soprano Saxophone playing is not overly complicated, and what Kenny G does so convincingly is to transfuse his emotion into the song. Kenny G has been the first to admit that he is primarily a pop instrumentalist, which needs to be taken into account when listening to him.
starts out with The Joy of Life
, a song which illustrates what Kenny G is all about, just like every other song on this album. It is a more upbeat song than others on Breathless
and Kenny's smooth and steady Sax playing lends itself to the feeling of love. One of the primary ways Kenny G manages to capture his audience is by portraying the emotion of the song excellently. Even for casual listeners, like the parent demographic, the main theme of the song is boldly put on display for all to see and understand. The Joy of Life
manages to recreate that feeling of 'newfound love' to perfection. In the Rain
also demonstrates Kenny's ability to portray the various facets of love; with the notes gliding in and out with not a single harsh tone in it. One of the most upbeat songs on the album is G Bop
, which features a funky pop beat with Kenny's sharper than normal Sax playing over the top. It provides a nice break from all the gushing with love songs that fill Breathless
to the rim. G Bop
is pretty much the only song that differs from Kenny G's tried and true formula. That said, G Bop
still manages to revert back to Kenny's favourite theme of love, but this time with more of a enthusiastic funky feeling and beat. By the end of the song you'll be swearing you just heard The Joy of Life
again but with a chirpier rhythm.
With only two songs on Breathless
featuring vocals and the only real instrument being Kenny's Soprano Saxophone; repetition was always going to be evident. Sadly it seems little has been done to avoid this. Every song on Breathless
follows the same recipe. An ounce of Saxophone, a smothering of cheesy Pop beat, a wallop of love and a pinch of passion. When listened to as a whole, the repetitiveness is not such a big deal. It gives Breathless
a very unified theme, that is present throughout the album. However with almost every song blending into each other, none of the songs on this album manage to stick out in the listeners mind. Unlike most pop albums where there is a standout song that is purely designed to be a single, Breathless
doesn't really have one. Kenny G could have released any of the songs as singles, and no doubt they would have all received the same reaction. Too much variety can make an album feel broken up and chaotic. Kenny G obviously wanted to avoid that at all costs, which has resulted in a somewhat bland album.
Like many other instrumental albums that feature a song or two with vocals, they usually fall up short. Even if my Heart Would Break
features help from fellow Adult Contemporary artist Aaron Neville and his unique voice. Although the guest vocals do make for a slightly different song to the norm, the usual motif of love is present. The lyrics are pretty much what you would expect from a Kenny G song. 'I'm going to love you, even if my heart would break.' The lyrics in By the Time this Night is Over
are similarly basic, with obvious references to love. 'And darling if it's right, by the time this night is over. The stars are going to shine on two lovers in love.' The vocals provided by Peabo Bryson in By the Time this Night is Over
seem to suit the song more than Neville's contribution. Unfortunately neither of the vocal performances adds much to the depth or originality of Kenny G's songs. By no means are they bad tracks, they both feature simple but beautiful melodies. But once again, Kenny G. shows almost no creativity, resorting to that same formula over and over again.
There are some strong, purely instrumental tracks on Breathless
. Songs like Forever in Love
, End of the Night
all have powerful melodies that can be quite moving in the right moment. If listened to in a random order, it would be very difficult to deduce which song was which. But when listened to at the right moment, this won't matter at all. What strikes me with Breathless
is that it is meant for a certain type of person, in a certain situation. When listened to whilst sitting on a balcony, overlooking the sun set on a clear and crisp night, Breathless
is quite magnificent. In a relaxed state like that, the emotion in the music matters a hundred times more than the technical skill involved. Alone
starts off with a delicate Spanish guitar and keyboard intro that floats into Kenny's sensual and mellow Soprano Saxophone that seems to waft through the song. Another song that has a more sorrow filled take on love is Sister Rose
. Kenny G really seems to excel at the more depressed songs on Breathless
, which have a more down to earth feel to them than the at times cheesy 'newfound love' songs. Sister Rose
features some of the most complex Saxophone melodies and patterns on the album, although that is over stating it a bit. Although Kenny G holds the world record for the longest note held on a Saxophone (an E-Flat for forty five minutes, forty seven seconds); he rarely shows off his technical prowess, almost always opting for a soulful and minimalist approach to the music.
At 6 minutes and 16 seconds, Sister Rose
is the second longest song on the album. Kenny G rarely differs from the 4:30 to 5:30 length for each song, which once again shows how formulaic his approach can be. The album is quite a long one at almost 70 minutes long. However the repetitiveness of the album negates the length quite dramatically. Kenny G and the producers of Breathless
went a little over board on the tracks included in the album, and a few of the tracks show a little too much of Kenny's single-minded approach to music making. Rather than adding depth, as was probably intended.
One could go on and on about each song in Breathless
and describe each one in full detail, and then you would realise you had just written the same thing 14 times over. It cannot be understated how repetitive and at times boring Breathless
can be. At the right time and place, Breathless
is the perfect mood setter. The soulful, heartfelt and sincere melodies are perfect for a romantic candlelit evening. But of course that is where the album also falls terribly short. With such a focused intent on what purpose the album serves, it has resulted in an album that has alienated itself from almost every other demographic.
is a lot like clay court tennis. If you focus on clay court tennis, then you'll play pretty poorly on any other type of court. Breathless
threw all its balls into one court, and has been rewarded with great success from its target audience. Sadly anybody else who has a different background will see it for what Kenny G failed to disguise. They will see it as a bland, highly incessant and recurrent album with tracks that feel like they're on auto-pilot. Some will question the passion behind the album, and call it manufactured emotions that have been processed into mush. This reviewer however believes that Kenny's emotions are truly present, with his themes of love and loss accentuated impressively.
I find it hard to recommend this album, when most people will hate it. It is a severely flawed album that offers nothing in terms of originality is far too high on repetition and lacks technical flair. With no real filler tracks to mention, you'd think this album would be a classic. Unfortunately that just reflects on how no song in this album does enough to distinguish itself above the rest, resulting in 70 minutes of the same formula in different keys. However, for the few lovebirds on this site that cannot fathom a life without love, this album will leave you like the album title suggests.. Breathless