Monday, May 17, 2010

Fearless Etheridge: Fearless Love

I’ve always had great respect for Melissa Etheridge. She entered the music business as a hard-edged rocker often compared, at best, to Janis Joplin or at worst, to Bruce Springsteen. So many great singers have lost the “comparison” battle and faded into obscurity, but not Etheridge. She stayed focused on important political, environmental, and sexual orientation issues that continue to have a strong appeal for her fans. By taking those risks, Etheridge stood above the commercial expectations and forged her own direction overcoming the weight of the publicity of her first marriage and her greatest battle, defeating cancer in 2005.

Fearless Love is her first album of new songs in a couple of years, and it’s as strong as any she’s ever written and released. The title track drives hard like a U2 song as Etheridge yearns for “a fearless love; I won’t settle for anything else." On "Drag Me Away," her most personal song in years, she talks about her fight for life and love with allusions to fighting cancer: "I will not be a hostage to my own dis-ease," she says. Fearless Love is as powerful a “coming out” record as Etheridge has ever written, but this time the feelings are raw. Instead of anger we get a deeper expression of the ache she has suffered over the recent years. I wish the production wasn’t so over-the-top save for the closer, "Gently We Row," a fine example of Etheridge’s strength as a vocalist. I understand that she’s performing some of these songs solo, which is a much more preferable and intimate way to hear them.

-- John Corcelli is an actor, musician, writer, broadcaster and theatre director.

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