The One, The Only
The End Records, 2012
REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/17/2012
A couple of weeks ago, I was watching one of the many music awards shows that graces the airwaves these days. I ended up catching most of the program, so of course, that meant putting up with a ridiculous amount of banter, terrible jokes, and artists who somehow seem to be more popular after beating their girlfriend (someone really needs to explain this to me). The one thing that I took from this program was that these are the top artists, the big sellers, the ones who are “making bank” as it were. I was bored out of my mind.
At the risk of sounding like Grandpa, it was the sameness of the music that stood out. I could watch LMFAO, Chris Brown, and the others who have faded into the ether of my mind, but there was no sense of uniqueness. It’s all recycled hooks thrown into a slightly different packaging. At least when you watch the Grammys, they tend to try and vary the performances. (Of course, the awards themselves are just as useless but that’s a screed for another day).
Continuing on this front porch diatribe, Top 40 radio doesn’t seem to be aware of its roots. Some of the greatest songs of the 20th Century were Top 40 hits; pop music does have the ability to signal new directions and contribute to the musical zeitgeist in ways that no other genre can. I appreciate when I turn on the radio, hear the latest single from some random act, and can identify the history behind the song.
The first time I heard Amy Winehouse’s “Tears Dry On Their Own,” I was blown away. It was obviously so inspired by the Motown classics of the ‘60s, but wasn’t old-fashioned in its approach and production. It was a song of the Naughts. I’d put Adele’s recent success in the same ballpark; and that is also where I am placing Miss Chantal Claret. These ladies find inspiration from their predecessors but manage to move beyond mere replication.
Claret definitely follows the old adage of going big or going home. She dips her toes into the past four decades quite adeptly, which runs counterintuitive to the success she found in her original group Morningwood. That outfit was dedicated to power pop, and it is clear Claret had her eyes on doing something a little different.
The one force that holds the record together despite its weak second half is Chantal’s vocals. It has the smoky, jazz lounge quality that Amy Winehouse possessed with a layer of caramel on top. The larger than life personality fits in just as well; this is a record powered by one artist and it lives and dies on that basis. I love the swagger Claret brings on tracks like “Pleasure Seeker;” she spits out the vocals with a sneer that just kills. By the same token, the anthemic “No Love Lost” and ‘80s throwback “Never Gonna Let You Go” showcase differing skill sets. As I said before, the vocals carry the record and these tracks are the best of the best.
One of the most underrated qualities to a great pop song is length. The best artists know that sometimes less is more; two minutes and fifty seconds is most likely preferable to four twenty-five. Chantal understands this conventional wisdom, and The One, The Only just breezes by; the first song to cross the three and a half minute barrier does not come until the ten spot in the track listing.
The energetic performances and strong vocals carried my interest with The One, The Only, and that’s enough to get me to look past a the last handful of songs losing steam. If Claret decides to put out another solo record, rest assured she has captured my interest. And I will tell you another thing: by the end of the record, I was not bored at all.