Jem, Jem, Jem. She let me down again. Its Amazing, her first single off of Down to Earth, was uplifting, poppy and fun. It promised more than the album delivered. While musically more mature than her first album, It All Starts Here, her new endeavor is still more on the average side of the spectrum: not exciting, not exceptional, not what I had hoped.
As an album Down to Earth, has a clear theme, which not all pop albums have. The fact that there even is a theme shows forethought and creative direction. The theme itself however is sort of “we are the world”-“why can’t we get along”-“we are all goddesses”, which I find naive and tired. It’s Amazing, sounded good when it was a single, but Down to Earth, Keep on Walking, You Will Make it, and Got it Good all have similar messages, and it blends in with the rest of them. One way that Jem pushes her theme is singing in different languages and using different styles of instruments throughout the album: Japanese, South African and Spanish lyrics as well as influences from Latin, Brazilian, Gospel, piano, electronics, and different types of guitar. Jem’s crunchy, poppy, flavorful texture is a bit like Nelly Furtado or Natasha Bedingfield.
Overall musically, the album is well done, but on the average side of quality. The songs flow well together, draw from a diversity of references yet also have unity. Unfortunately, it lacks a certain pizazz. I give it a 3 for Quality.
Although they contain similar messages, I don’t want to discount that Jem has a number of inspirational or uplifting tracks on this album. The message from It’s Amazing, is repeated and expanded in other songs. Got It Good, summarizes the message well:
Got a soul, got a mind, got a heart that meats in time.You’ve got a smile, got a voice, got the gift of love. You’ve got it good, don’t forget how lucky you are. Darling, darling. Use it to connect with everyone.
She urges her listeners to stop their foolishness and use their talents for the good, to appreciate people for who they are, and to keep on walking.
When I ordered the CD on Amazon, I read a few reviews and I rememer one reviewer said he didn’t appreciate the cynical nature of many songs. I was curious but not put off enough to not order. There is indeed a cynical element to some of the songs. I Always Knew is about how Jem won’t let anything get in her way of getting to the top, including people making fun of her. Its the negative side of Keep on Walking– sometimes in order to keep on walking one must develop some calluses and toughen up. She insists she won’t go so far as to become a *ahem* and the toughening she does is all in the name of music but I’m sure there is also an aspect of pride.
Along with about three semi-swear words on the album, there is other questionable content. One song, I Want You To… is about meeting someone on the dance floor and what you want to do with them. Another song Aciiid!, probably the most dancable and radio-friendly song, is about a woman proudly inviting men to lust after her.
As an average (4 for her inspirational songs, 2 for the two questionable songs) I give the album a 3 for Clean. I also don’t recommend it for those who are looking for an album with zero offences