Pop singers these days rarely have long shelf lives. Unless you’re of the Miley/Bieber variety, where a combination of crafty promotion and catchy, radio friendly tunes turn you into more than the flavor of the minute, you have to grab the gusto where you can. This means giving up creative control and doing what you’re told. For many pop artists these days, creative control is generally left to a group of bling-clad producers, who have a track list scrawled out before said pop-heart-throb-flavor-of-the-minute enters the studio.
At first look, Ashylne Huff seems like she might fall in with this crew. She is pretty with a privileged, rich kid aura about her (which is not surprising seeing how Daddy is Dan Huff, a record producer of some renown). But one listen to the six song sampler from her soon to be released debut CD proves there is something different about this one. Her songs are pop, yes, but there is a dark edge to them. The synthesizers chug along but there is attitude here. Ashlyne means business and it shows.
When she rocks she is at her best. Songs like the single “Heart of Gold”, and the album cut “Trippin’ It Up” shine. In “Heart” she tells a commitment phobic suitor it’s put up or shut up time: “You’re everything that I can live my life without/Who am I to tell you what to do/You’re not the type to do as you’re told/Let me tell you you’re gonna miss this Heart Of Gold”. Yeah, girl. You go. In “Trippin’, a song about the decline of commitment, she sings “We need a revolution/Not just this happenstance” over a rhythmic handclap accompaniment and an edgy synth beat. It’s not your typical pop fare. What makes these songs even more impressive is that Ms. Huff had a hand in writing every one of them.
Not as impressive are the ballads. “Sweet Nothing” and “Heartbeat” are average top 40 radio pabulum. But Ms. Huff redeems herself with “Make It Rain”, a bold song with a fabulous hook and Kelly Clarkson vibe.
The production is busy and at times seems to overwhelm the material. If it were up to me, I would get rid of the synthesizers and have Ms. Huff front a great four piece rock band. Perhaps the stage is where she is most in her element. Maybe there her sound is rawer than her producer busbee allows it to be on this release.
Ms. Huff is currently on a 33 city tour tour with the band Honor Society. Her self titled album will be released on April 27th. After that, it will remain to be seen if she manages to shake off the pop star stigma, hone her obvious talents, and enjoy a long, respectable career.