Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Melody Gardot – Baby I’m A Fool

Why is it always the smooth ones that prove most divisive?…


Pete Baran: I can’t remember who proved it with science, but I know it’s a stone cold FACT that chanson doesn’t work in English. So yes baby, you are a fool. And a dull one to boot.

Anthony Easton: She shortens vowels when she should lengthen them, and she speeds up phrases in the wrong places, plus she does the whole Peggy Lee sing/speech thing poorly, and working thru the same thoughts in French does not really improve anything.

Anthony Miccio: If that self-satisfied quiver in her voice is a defining characteristic, I can’t say I want to investigate beyond this precocious jazzcat’s mannered flirt. Minus one for the scat break.

Alfred Soto: A macrobiotic cook! A humanitarian who, according to Wikipedia, “often speaks about the benefits of music therapy”! Even if I didn’t know that she was disabled at nineteen, this is far too much baggage for one woman to carry, never mind a string section. So, yeah, I’d still think she was a menace and a fourth-rate Norah Jones if she voted for Mitt Romney in a 2008 straw poll, read Ayn Rand, and bit down hard on a pheasant’s neck while it still lived.

John Seroff: Melody Gardot’s backstory is a publicist’s dream: young artistic type is traumatized in a horrible bike wreck and emerges half-crippled, weirdly photosensitive and reliant on music therapy to communicate. Like an Oliver Sacks story, the sound grounds her; she makes a demo while in rehab that gets her signed by a major label. Six years after the accident, her second album is released to a devoted fan base; it’s critically well-received and there’s a growing sense that she could well be 2010’s Norah Jones. It’s an inspiring biography, but does the music swing? It does. Gardot’s hummingbird vibrato, leisurely pace, slight sibilance and an almost jaded restraint hearken back to post-war supper club cabaret. Sweetly sighing violins, a metronome of classical guitar and brushes on the traps to simulate vinyl surface noise close up the time capsule. Cool, fragile and elegant as a chilled martini glass, “Baby I’m A Fool” would be more at home in a ballroom or a bedroom than an iPod playlist but (and I speak from experience) it sounds just beautiful in all the above.

Martin Skidmore: The singing has the laid-back pleasure of the best Brazilian female singers, and the song is excellent — put me in mind of Tom Waits’ “I Never Talk To Strangers”, oddly. This is obviously a dated style and I have no idea what kind of audience she’ll find, but I think she’s wonderful.

Alex Ostroff: Melody’s got gorgeous tone and a way with words, but it’s the arrangement that truly makes this great. The string opening prepares us for Ella + Cole levels of lushness and bombast, and then pulls away, turning the rest of “Baby I’m a Fool” into an exercise in expectations and anticipation. When the vocals enter, Melody’s fool in love is supported by nothing but the sparsely plucked guitar. The strings soon reenter, and at the start of the next verse the drums arrive. She savours the taste of vanity and insanity in her mouth, rolling them over the languid shuffle. Just as we’re reminded that “the moment’s fleeting,” the accompaniment drops out. Gardot stretches out her syllables and grants us two seconds of silence — two seconds rendered an eternity — before drawing us back in, and having taunted us with the loss of her, invites us to fall for her instead. Done.

Hillary Brown: There’s something imperfect and vulnerable about this simply produced nostalgia-evoking track that makes it better than just an exercise in re-creation. Gardot’s purring has character, and it’s a nice contrast with the diaphragm-driven pop tunes that mostly fill the charts.

Martin Kavka: On certain days, Melody Gardot can put me to sleep. On other days, when I can let myself float away thanks to her gifts of phrasing and purring and her ability to prove that less is more, I fantasize about her ripping out Mariah Carey’s larynx.

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