LeAnn Rimes

So, did she jump, or was she pushed? Six years after singing herself "Blue," the Garland gal goes where everyone's gone before--Shania, Faith, Britney, Beyoncé, Christina--and returns with head and hands empty; if this doesn't end her career, it's only because audiences will buy anything, and Rimes has never been one to underestimate the gullibility of fans who thought her Patsy Cline till she revealed herself as little more than Debbie Boone with a Prince fetish and stuck with her nonetheless. If she can survive the fiasco that was 1998's mush-mouthed "Purple Rain" redo, a definite redon't, then perhaps she's indestructible. Certainly she acts bulletproof, as evidenced by this collection of teen-pop retreads so bland and unremarkable, hearing them a dozen times is like never hearing them at all. She's calling her own shots and apparently aiming them at herself; as it turns out, the price of liberation--she's 20 now, free from poppa Wilbur's platinum shackles and married--is your soul, because Twisted Angel has none, no matter how hard or high she sings. Even the apologist, both of them, will have a hard time swallowing such a bitter pill as this pop poison, which sounds obsolete even before it reaches shelves October 1.

You can't damn her for growing up, only losing touch; if hiring Desmond Child (Cher, Roxette, "Who Let the Dogs Out") and Peter Amato (Baha Men) is her idea of moving forward, she does so only in a time machine set to 1999. With its plasticine pop and two-left-feet dance moves, Twisted Angel (even its title sounds lifted from the hair-metal cutout bin) reeks of desperation and worry, as though Rimes believes it necessary to keep pace with company she never kept in the first place. This isn't her Shania move, her Shelby pose, but her Britney breakdown, which is as unfathomable as it is inexplicable; the girl with the astounding voice, that broken and blue yodel, has devolved into nothing more than a woman hiding behind the facile façade of hookless, tuneless, gutless music that renders her moot and mute a mere six years in. There's no country here, only cuntry: "Come inside my walls of ecstasy," she moans on the saccharine-walls schlock of "Tic Toc" (that's the sound her career's making as it comes to a close); elsewhere she proclaims her independence--from Daddy, apparently, though apparently not other middle-aged men who'd seek to do her irreparable harm. It'd be laughable if it weren't so regrettable.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky