Thursday, April 29, 2010

Jack Ingram, "Barbie Doll"

You may or may not remember this, but it took a long time for Jack Ingram to become the hitmaking country star that he is today. For years, every single he released fizzled until he finally made it big in 2006 with his first (and, to date, only) number-one hit "Wherever You Are." One of those fizzles was a song called "Barbie Doll," which was released in 2000, and failed to register on the country charts. Now that Jack has become a star, he has released a re-recorded version of "Barbie Doll" to give it a second shot at becoming a hit.

It's hard not to compare "Barbie Doll" to Carrie Underwood's recent smash "Cowboy Casanova," since they are similar in theme, though the genders are reversed. Both songs are about outwardly attractive people who have a reputation for breaking hearts. But there are several areas where Carrie went right, and Jack went wrong. The first is in the vocal performance. Carrie's delivery of "Cowboy Casanova" was full of power, emotion, and fury, but Jack's delivery of "Barbie Doll" lacks these qualities. Carrie sings in way that commands attention, but Jack sings in a way that is easily forgotten. In addition, "Barbie Doll" suffers from cluttered production that does not complement the vocals very well at all.

The next problem area is the lyrics. Carrie gives us clever lines such as "Looks like a cool drink of water/ But he's candy-coated misery/ He's the devil in disguise/ A snake with blue eyes..." and so on. What does Jack give us? She a Bar-bie doll (Bar-bie doll)/ Bar-bie doll (Bar-bie doll)/ Yeah, she's real good lookin', but she ain't got no heart at all." Sorry Jack, but I can't give you very many points for screaming "Bar-bie doll!" repeatedly. Furthermore, the label "Barbie doll" is not quite a fitting label for the kind of woman that Jack is attempting to describe. It only suggests good looks, saying nothing about her heartless personality. It seems that the only reason for using the phrase "Barbie Doll" is that a song with that title might arouse curiosity as to what it's about. But a song does not become a timeless classic if the most interesting thing about it is its title. Lyrical substance is far more important than a clever title.

Writing this review just makes me want to bring up iTunes and listen to "Cowboy Casanova," since it is infinitely superior to "Barbie Doll." I can see a discernible effort on the part of the songwriters to actually write a song, but the end result is just another country-rock throwaway. Hearing "Barbie Doll" raises a pertinent question in my mind: Why was this song even worth recording once, let alone a second time?

(Scores are given on a scale of 1 to 10)