posted on April 28, 2008 05:59
We've given it time to see if it's a grower. It's not. We watched her TV appearances on the off-chance that it works better live. It doesn't. We watched part 1 and part 2 of the making-of documentary in the hope that we'd learn how to decipher its mysteries. There aren't any. The new Camille album, 'Music Hole', just isn't very good, and that's about it.
We had feared as much when we heard 'Money Note', the first track made public before the album's release. The vocal effects were clever and engaging, so we liked it on first listen. Paying closer attention, we were surprised to discover that she was openly criticising MOR divas like Céline Dion and Mariah Carey for their histrionic technique.
This we found a bit rich, as Camille herself showboats all the way through 'Music Hole'. Like Whitney's infamous climactic blaster in 'I Will Always Love You', what else are Camille's vocal effects but a spotlight on her singing technique? And with her hyperactive live persona, she combines "listen to me" and "look at me" as much as any attention-seeking stage-school brat.
The extra attention on Camille has been detrimental to the quality of her material. On 'Le Fil' her vocal effects were subtle and served the song, like for hit single 'Ta Douleur' where her vocalising embellishes an already-brilliant pop song. For her new album the songs serve the vocal effects. This is apparent on the terrible first single, 'Gospel With No Lord'. Like 'Money Note', it's a song about being a singer; one step above 'songs about the war I watched on CNN' on the scale of Bad Lyric Ideas.
In 'Gospel With No Lord' Camille praises the person from whom she received her singing gift - herself. (It starts with her cheering herself on: "Allez Camille, allez Camille".) And, her family, whom she eulogises with a naff riff in a kooky deep voice ("Father in laaawwww - sister in laaawww - brother in laaawwwww"). It's supremely irritating and miles away from the subtle, subversive charm of 'Le Fil'.
The rest of the album follows the same tack: promising songs are sunk by Camille's incessant need to highlight the vocalising that made her name. So, a quiet thing like 'Home Is Where It Hurts' is ruined by the very showboating she criticises in Mariah et al. With depressing predictability, 'Cats And Dogs' breaks into animal noises. And so forth.
Follow-up albums, as we noted above, tend to be written in the spotlight of public praise and expectation, and thus with a great deal of self-consciousness. Like thinking about yourself while dancing, too much self-awareness trips up songwriters every time. With every note and song of 'Music Hole' Camille seems vividly aware that she's Camille, and so she plays at being Camille for the whole album. This may be impeccable post-modernism - but it makes for rotten music.
Here's that first single, 'Gospel With No Lord':