Melissa Etheridge: Fearless Love

RIYL: Sheryl Crow, Lone Justice, Rod Stewart

With her early albums, Melissa Etheridge helped erase the last bit of novelty from the sight of a girl with a guitar. She wasn’t the first female rock star – not by a long shot – but unlike a lot of her forebears, she didn’t really have an image: She wasn’t cute like the Bangles, or vaguely threatening like Joan Jett, or a hippie intellectual like Joni Mitchell. She was just a musician who happened to be a woman, and one with a knack for combining easily identifiable messages with big, broad, radio-ready melodies. Remember “Come to My Window”? Of course you do.


Seventeen years later, Etheridge isn’t quite the radio mainstay she once was, but she’s still doing exactly what she’s always done – to a fault, in fact. The last decade has seen her release a pair of live albums, a Christmas album, and a greatest hits collection, in addition to four albums of new material – and Fearless Love, her latest, suggests it might be time for a vacation. It’s certainly a step back from 2007’s The Awakening, which found her using those reach-for-the-sky choruses in service of a spiritual, autobiographical song cycle; in contrast, Fearless Love comes loaded for bear with a dozen tracks of platitudes as corny as its title.

Still, there’s something heartwarming about a performer this unflinchingly sincere, especially in the midst of such a cynical, irony-drenched era for music. Even when Etheridge is singing hoary lines like “Long nights in the small room with the big dreams / Oh, Indiana,” there’s never any doubt that she really means what she’s saying. Maybe next time, she’ll come up with a message worthy of that conviction. (Island 2010)

Melissa Etheridge MySpace page


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