April 17, 2003

Divorced Queen of Pop

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Leonard Maltin was in the Guinness Book of World Records a few years ago for “Shortest Review” for his one-word (“No.”) movie review. In reviewing Lisa Marie Presley’s new album, I think my opinion can adequately be relayed without any new words. Let me write the title of the album again: Lisa Marie Presley — To Whom It May Concern. The reason for the disparagingly low tower ranking should be immediately obvious without any additional words. Still, I have 750 words to write, so let me rephrase my criticism. This is an album by Lisa Marie Presley. It would be unethical for me to recommend this album. Furthermore, while I currently have no scientific evidence, I would wager that it is physically impossible for this to be good; we would have to enter an alternate dimension for Lisa Marie to produce a classic album.

As an example, when I bought this CD at Borders (yes, I bought it), the salesperson actually laughed in my face. Think about this: a massive corporation who survives solely on its ability to sell me things would rather embarrass and offend a customer than to simply sell its product. Borders would rather dismantle capitalism than pretend this album was worth money. This foreboding did not exactly incite a flood of confidence in the prospect of spending an hour with the CD.

And now the moment of truth. We, as a global village, have spent 35 years of backbreaking labor sarcastically fawning over Lisa Marie’s marriages and ancestors just so we could answer one question. Elvis himself now only seems like a preliminary figure that could introduce us to the subject of this question. So is Lisa Marie’s album any good? There can only be one answer: No, of course not. If Elvis invented rock ‘n roll (or, at least, stole it from some abandoned and indigent old bluesmen), it was through compounding country/folk music with rhythm and blues. Similarly, Lisa Marie has lamentably melded country/folk music and schmaltz-rock. There is not even the slight satisfaction of novelty as every country song of the last twenty years has propounded an identical mixture.

The album opens with “S.O.B.,” a roots rocker submerged in a Fender Rhodes and languid guitars that is strongly reminiscent of anything from mid-’90s Sheryl Crow or Alanis Morrisette (Jagged Little Pill producer Glen Ballard also worked on this album). If anything, To Whom It May Concern is a restoration of Lilith days, This is to say that, like most of the Lilith generation, it teems with platitudes masquerading as innovations. Nevertheless, the lyrics occasionally encompass some bizarre themes. “Lights Out” praises Southern graveyards. The titular track is about the danger of prescription drugs.

Excepting the two inevitable “ballads,” the arrangements are often fairly sophisticated (this is Capitol Records, after all), but are so riddled with clich