Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Michelle Branch – Sooner or Later

Why can’t you see-ee-ee…


Alex Ostroff: Back in the day, Michelle Branch was a guitar-wielding proto-Ashlee, under the guidance of John Shanks. And I loved her for it. How times have changed. For all of its pop-sheen, The Spirit Room clicked: Branch smouldered and ached and raged and… felt. I avoided The Wreckers, wary of Branch’s move to country; her strengths have never been lyrical or narrative. Worst fears confirmed: “Sooner or Later” is expressive and competent, but emotionally flat. It’s a poor man’s “You Belong With Me“, a superior song from a generation of Taylors and Ashlees who took the legacy of Michelle and Vanessa and Avril’s 2001 confessionalism and perfected it.

Michaelangelo Matos: I’ve got it: let’s start calling all these nu-Taylors “Swift Boaters.” As in a tugboat, towing to its shores older vessels such as decade-or-so power-pouter Branch, who needs a vehicle as badly as anyone in the biz.

Martin Kavka: Tales of women pining after guys, convinced that they are the answer to their men’s problem, deserve to be compared with each other. “You Belong With Me” comes from a position of polite strength; she concludes by putting the burden on the guy to come up with reasons why he shouldn’t break up with his girlfriend. Michelle Branch’s “Sooner Or Later” is schizophrenic: at one moment, she says that she’s not going to help the guy with his girl problems, but at the next she’s contemplating prettying herself up so that he’ll notice her as a potential girlfriend. Maybe that hot-and-cold act is why Michelle’s guy will never come around and wish he had her.

Ian Mathers: This song apes “You Belong to Me” so hard that at first it’s hard to get past it – and also hard to want to listen to it, since Branch doesn’t have anything in her arsenal nearly as stirring as Swift’s chorus (or songcraft generally). The way that she sings that he’s going to be sorry in the future, that he’s going to wish he chose the other way is more like the Nerves’ great “When You Find Out,” one of the most purely vicious pop songs not written by Elvis Costello. That edge, the notion that “Sooner or Later” is taking place right at the edge of where love curdles into hate, lends some interest to the song, but Branch still needs to work harder at staking out her own territory (or at least having better timing/single selection).

Hillary Brown: It’s missing the unpredictability of Taylor Swift’s work, but this is a well-written and -paced little song, heavy on melody and prettiness (and cliche), light on melodrama and excess.

Anthony Miccio: Yo, Michelle. I’m really happy for you. Imma let you finish but Taylor Swift had one of the best pop-country wallflower anthems of all time. One of the best of all time!

Alfred Soto: Until the banal chorus, the first set of verses mimics the well-calibrated rue of prime Taylor Swift; but Branch doesn’t believe in observation and deduction, she’s an industry hack who’s going after Swift’s market share now that Miley Cyrus is chasing after Avril Lavigne. Affecting girlishness will fool no one but her A&R man. I wish this song were worse than it is.

Anthony Easton: Generic, and not redeemed by the weltschmerz that someone like Leeann Womack or Terri Clark could deliver.

Martin Skidmore: She has a likeable voice, and this is a cute enough song about a man not realising what he is missing with her, but it’s old subject matter, and her voice is not special, and although the steel guitar and banjo and acoustic guitar are far more my kind of country than the usual country-rock, this still kind of passes pleasantly without making any real impact.

Keane Tzong: It may be refreshing and reassuring to know that Michelle Branch adds subtle “uhh” noises to the ends of some of her words regardless of the genre, tempo, or tone of the song she is singing, but there is a big difference between “knowing” in the abstract sense of the word and being confronted with a three-minute example of such.

Al Shipley: I like to imagine she’s addressing this lyric to the pop charts she hasn’t seen any action with in so many years. And that sly old Hot 100 takes a drag from his cigarette, laughs, and says “honey, don’t flatter yourself.”

16 Responses to “Michelle Branch – Sooner or Later”

  1. lol at Anthony. Not tired of the meme yet.

  2. Al’s was brilliant as well

  3. I really dislike all the constant comparison to Taylor Swift. Don’t get me wrong, I love Taylor, but it’s Michelle who’s played a major part in paving the way for girls like Taylor.

    In the early 2000’s Michelle was a breath of fresh air, in a pop industry full of Britney/Christina/Jessica/Mandy all gunning to be the next top blonde. Michelle wrote her own songs, actually played an instrument. At that time, she stepped out of the mold, and reminded the world that female musicians didn’t need to be sex-kittens with robotic dance moves. Just because she moved out of the pop-music limelight, just because she hasn’t gotten all the attention and focus over the years, certainly doesn’t mean she hasn’t continued to be successful. She’s been extremely successful, both on her own, and as The Wreckers, and lets not forget, she had a Grammy at, or near Taylor’s age, an accomplishment that Taylor has yet to reach, though there isn’t much doubt in my mind that eventually she will get there.

    In my opinion, “Sooner or Later” is a more mature song, that while similar in theme to “You Belong With Me” the comparison stops there. Even more so when it comes to the rest of Michelle’s album. Taylor writes like a teenager. Which is great, seeing as she is one. Michelle writes as an adult, and they’re both very different. However, lets not forget who came first. Michelle isn’t the one aspiring to be the next Taylor Swift. The same can’t be said, reversing the names, especially if you do your homework, as far as who Miss. Swift has named as some of her influences when it comes to music.

    They’re both successful, in their own right, but not comparable. Maybe it was a poor choice for her current single, given the fact that “You Belong With Me” is Taylor’s current single, but Taylor releases singles so quickly, it’s tough to know what you’ll be up against, I’m sure, when the suits at Warner decided to go with “Sooner or Later”.

  4. “Michelle” was more like morning-breath.

  5. “In the early 2000’s Michelle was a breath of fresh air, in a pop industry full of Britney/Christina/Jessica/Mandy all gunning to be the next top blonde. Michelle wrote her own songs, actually played an instrument. At that time, she stepped out of the mold, and reminded the world that female musicians didn’t need to be sex-kittens with robotic dance moves.”

    this is not a valid critical point

  6. And the sex kittens were more assertive than pale Michelle. But Katie does have a point in that it is ridiculous to talk about Michelle going after Taylor’s market share when Michelle created the market eight years ago. She’s aping not Taylor but herself. But what’s depressing is that she’s doing it so poorly. “Everywhere” had a gorgeous diffuse ache and a hard tuneful kick. This one just kind of stands still and doesn’t even look all that pretty.

  7. Hmmm…I have no opinion about whether Michelle is going after Taylor’s market share (and no opinion about this song), but seems to me you could talk about Roxy Music or Bowie going after the Cars’ or Duran Duran’s (or whoever’s) market share in the late ’70s and early ’80s, despite having created the market and sound earlier. (Okay, that’s maybe not the best example…Slade going after Quiet Riot’s market share? Aerosmith going after Ratt’s? Pretty sure these examples are just getting dumber and dumber. Somebody help me out here. But in other words, artists can be influenced in turn by artists they influence. It’s not an unheard-of phenomenon.)

  8. (And while not being a valid critical point, the thing about plays her instrument and writes her songs means that Michelle and then Pink, Vanessa, and Avril can be models for the girls who don’t think they rate as the sex blondes. Not that sensitive guitar strummer with long hair is even as interesting as Britney, but Michelle also had a tune to match any of Britney’s (courtesy of John Shanks), and with the door opened by Michelle, performers like Vanessa C. and Pink and Avril could show up on Radio Disney to provide variations on or alternatives to Michelle’s girliness.

  9. Xpost. Yeah, I guess Michelle could be going after someone else’s share of a market she herself created, but Michelle’s been doing songs with this theme for eight years and her country move was independent of Taylor’s. Actually, we should talk about Jewel going after Michelle‘s market share – you wouldn’t know it from the reviews above, but the Wreckers were successful.

    I guess what I’m saying is that the cynicism upthread is sour and cheap, even if Taylor does whip Michelle’s ass.

  10. (And actually “Run Runaway” wasn’t trying to sound like “Cum On Feel The Noize.” But point taken.)

  11. Alex, if you can get past the song’s massive self-pity, the title track to Stand Still, Look Pretty is actually quite, um, pretty.

  12. […] Check My Brain [7] Raekwon ft. Most of The Wu-Tang Clan – House of Flying Daggers [10] Michelle Branch – Sooner or Later [5] Future of the Left – Arming Eritrea [7] Cheryl Cole – Fight for This Love [6] Jason […]

  13. Okay, I finally thought of a perfect example of what Frank and I were discussing up above! Bad Company blatantly changing their sound in a more synthy/pop direction to sound more like Foreigner (who were obviously Bad Co.-influenced in the first place) circa Desolation Angels in 1979. (And actually, Roxy Music wasn’t a bad example after all, if you consider how “Over You” from 1980 totally ripped off its hooks from the Cars’ “Let’s Go” from the year before.)

  14. Michelle Branch ROCKS! Piss on taylor swift. The hell with her teenage, winey, “You belong to me”! “Sooner or Later” is awesome.

  15. And britney sucks too, I HATE britney, and all that other pop crap! LOVE Michelle Branch! Michelle is QUALITY, and has a voice and talent like no other. She deserves less harsh critisism that she has been getting and more praise and success. Michelle works her butt off to get a song and album together, then gets slapped in the face. Taylor pulls something out of her butt, and everyone just goes crazy. And Britney, that b**ch can have a song about a fart that was put together in, what, one or two days, and it goes #1! Give Michelle a chance!

  16. i hate taylor, her voice is bad, her attitude is suck, she’s so ugly. I hate her