Home Read Classic Album Review: LeAnn Rimes | I Need You

Classic Album Review: LeAnn Rimes | I Need You

The teenage powerhouse ditches country for bubblegum pop on this dismal offering.

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This album came out back in 2001. Here’s what I said about it then (with some minor editing):

 


Kids these days. Five years ago in 1996, LeAnn Rimes sounded like she wanted to grow up to be the next Patsy Cline. Not any more. Now that she has finally grown up, more or less — Rimes turned 18 in August, 2000 — she’s apparently decided on a different role model: Britney Spears.

Not that you should necessarily expect to see LeAnn stripping down to her skivvies and caressing a giant python on TV award shows anytime soon (at least I hope not). But on her sixth album I Need You, Rimes makes it clear that at this stage in her career, she’s less interested in the rich, authentic sounds of country music than she is with the artificial, shallow world of bubblegum pop.

The results are as disappointing as you’d expect. Perhaps even worse, if you’re a country fan. There’s nary a fiddle, a walking bass line or a country cover to be found on I Need You’s 10 tracks. Instead, they’ve been replaced by the sterile drum machines, stabbing synthesizers and cheeseball songcraft of a million bad Top 40 dance-pop singles and adult contemporary ballads.

Even worse, many of these bad Top 40 dance-pop singles and adult contemporary ballads were penned by pop fluffmistress Diane Warren, who has done for the art of songwriting what Taco Bell did for Mexican cuisine. For my money, just one of Warren’s treacly, cliche, overwrought musical hairballs is enough to ruin most albums; I Need You has no less than three: the ballads But I Do Love You and Soon and the uptempo Can’t Fight the Moonlight, whose familiar-sounding chorus and discotronic production make it clear that it needs a different title — Oops! … I Rewrote a Britney Spears Song. Written in the Stars, a duet with Elton John from his year-old Aida album, doesn’t help matters any. Only a couple of tracks — notably Love Must Be Telling Me Something — offer a brief country-rock respite from the rest of I Need You’s relentless Cheez Whiz onslaught. It’s so blandly awful, you wish Rimes were still underage, if only so she could be sent to her room without her supper.

Thankfully and somewhat predictably, the only component of I Need You that doesn’t disappoint is Rimes’ voice. It was remarkable when she first unleashed it on the music world at age 13 — now, it’s grown into a spectacular instrument which she continues to wield with grace and subtlety. But hearing her waste it on junk like this is like listening to Jerry Lee Lewis play Chopsticks. Sure she sounds good, but what’s the point? That she can beat the Britneys and Xtinas at their own game? Well, OK, point taken, LeAnn. Now go pick on somebody your own size.

The only saving grace of I Need You is that it’s mercifully short — less than 40 minutes. Trust me, nobody needs this.