Divas are the bread and butter of the gay clubgoing experience. But sometimes the bread is stale and the butter spoilt, leaving us with nothing but an unsavory mess. To many, Anastacia is a delicious butter croissant. She's extremely popular in Europe, and you couldn't avoid her a year or so ago in gay bars, where her "I'm Outta Love" was on frequent replay. But she's not a fresh pastry and she doesn't sound like butter to these ears. Anastacia's pure caramel, the sticky sweet sugar that's a staple in Twix, which she fervidly sang about in a recent commercial that reduces stereos to a chocolate-y, gooey mess.
Now this Freak of Nature is back with a second album. It is as over-baked as expected with Anastacia. The first song released from the album, "One Day In Your Life," shows her up to her old, gloppy Trix -- and it's about the best song on here. It's amazing how someone with such a great voice and all the professional and electronic wizardry at Sony Music at her disposal can fail to show any control over her instrument. She hacks her way through even the sweetest of songs à la Michael Bolton ("You'll Never Walk Alone," "I Dreamed You") using her vibrato inappropriately. And just when she gets going in the overdone, orgiastic singing style that Whitney wrought, she falters by hitting the wrong notes -- most notably several times at the end of "One Day"
The production doesn't save her any trouble -- how could it, when her producers are responsible for Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey, and even early boy band Color Me Badd? "Paid My Dues" features a pro-forma key change in the final chorus of the song that isn't at all subtle or well-executed. And then there's the matter of her lyrics, some of which she co-wrote. "You call me in the midnight hour with your velvet lies" is just one of many strained constructions, this one from "One Day…" Her duet with R&B star Faith Evans, "Thought I Told You That," adds a hip-hop flair to the album, with considerable success. But musically it sounds eerily like "If I Told You That," Whitney's hit of a few years back, and lyrically and stylistically it's a pale imitation of Whitney's duet with Deborah Cox, "Same Script, Different Cast." Anastacia falls all over herself copying her betters. And even her equals: she cultivates the image of her Epic label mate J-Lo. In every way, she exudes a "notice me, I'm really, really confident; I'm really, really natural" aura that, like J-Lo, is all wet.
From throw-up to throw-away -- among DJs who've produced their own dance compilation albums, Julian Marsh is one of the most prolific. He has great potential, with his preference for melodic music and his disco and trance sensibilities. But like his club engagements, his albums never fail to let me down. He doesn't disappoint with his latest Pride. Oh, it starts off swell and ends well, but Marsh devotes most of the album to turning a number of ‘80s pop songs into tired modern-day dance tracks with unknown coverbands shilling for the original artists. It rarely works, and it doesn't work for any song on Pride. Bring back Erasure, bring back the Thompson Twins, bring back the Righteous Brothers. Okay, so forget that last one. What was Marsh thinking including "Unchained Melody" here anyway? Shut up Righteous Brothers, buck up Marsh, and next time give us something truly worthy of capital P-Pride.