In recent years the line between country and pop has become increasingly blurred. From Shania Twain to Faith Hill to Taylor Swift, new “country” records have proven a challenge for music retailers—which genre best describes them? A new artist that fits into this country-pop category is Jessie James, who adds youth and sex appeal to the sound on her self-titled album.
James is best known for her album’s first single, “Wanted” (co-written with American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi) and “Blue Jeans,” featured in the recent film Confessions of A Shopaholic. On her website, James cites Christina Aguilera as one of her influences, and “Wanted” definitely sounds like a song off Aguilera’s Stripped.
The singer achieves the most success when incorporating country guitar into her pop songs. “Bullet” is a catchy mixture of banjo, rock guitar, and a danceable beat. Unfortunately the track includes clichéd lyrics (sample: “Why do you think they call me Jessie James/Sweet as a peach, impossible to tame”), but the rapid-fire banjo redeems the rest of “Bullet.”
“My Cowboy” also utilizes the banjo, but adds a hip-hop beat under laden with a fiddle—think country a la Timbaland. Of course this song hardly represents a first in this genre—remember Cowboy Troy’s “hick-hop” hit “I Play Chicken with the Train”? Like “Bullet,” the song is filled with wink-wink lyrics like “saddle up and take me for a ride,” but the harder beat keeps you listening. “Burn It Up” contains a beat straight out of Nellie Furtado’s “Promiscuous,” although she reminds you of her country leanings by referring to the “sheriff.”
She also hints at her rocker side with “Big Mouth,” with some rock guitar and a bass line and beat borrowed from a Nine Inch Nails song. As on other tracks, James displays her considerable pipes; like Aguilera, she possesses a powerful voice and confidence beyond her 20 years.
“I hate your friends and family/They’re trying to take you from me,” she sneers on “Psycho Girlfriend,” written from the perspective of an obsessed lover. It takes guts to write and perform a song about an unsympathetic character, particularly a stalker. More mainstream is “Inevitable,” a midtempo, acoustic-guitar dominated tune that would fit alongside any Swift hit—at the very least, it would suit a movie soundtrack or top-40 radio.
James has a strong voice well suited toward various musical styles, including country, rock, pop, and dance. However, her experiments with country best distinguish her from the rest of the pop crowd. Jessie James simply does not contain enough distinctive material to merit a total recommendation. At such a tender age, though, she is still developing her sound, and hopefully she will write and choose more interesting material that fully exploits her country leanings.Powered by Sidelines