Saturday, June 5, 2010

LeAnn Rimes, "Swingin'"

This seems like an odd time for LeAnn to be releasing a covers album, and not just because she released one back in 1999. As much as it pains me to admit it, LeAnn has clearly lost the upper hand in the slugfest of blonde bombshells struggling for country radio domination. She barely missed hitting number one in 2006 with "Something's Gotta Give," but she has not re-entered the Top 10 since then (Though she nearly did so with 2007's "Nothin' Better to Do"). At this point in her career, it's important for LeAnn's new music to get as much attention as possible if she wants to get back into the spotlight. Covers albums are generally not very effective at drawing attention, since many people tend to dismiss them as uninteresting. But LeAnn has made it clear that Lady and Gentlemen is no ordinary covers album. It is entirely composed of classic country love songs, most of which are from the 80s, and all of which were originally recorded by men. In covering these songs, LeAnn is not necessarily doing them by the book, but rather she is putting her own unique twist on each one.

The album's first single is LeAnn's version of "Swingin'," a shamelessly flirty John Anderson hit from 1983. It is starkly different from the original. Not surprisingly, she had to tweak the lyrics so that they would make sense when sung by a woman. Instead of singing about Charlotte Johnson, LeAnn sings about Charlie Johnson. The production takes on an entirely new style. Gone are the horns and organs from John Anderson's original country-pop version, having been replaced with the pedal steel. Producer Vince Gill does some fancy guitar work on LeAnn's version, which spices it up a bit. LeAnn even increases the song's tempo, spitting out the verses in a rapid-fire delivery.

LeAnn's take on "Swingin'" is definitely no pointless copy of the original. But now, here's the million-dollar question: Does it work? It works like a charm! Some of John Anderson's fans may be put off at hearing LeAnn mess with one of their old favorites, but she does a bang-up job on it. LeAnn and her producer put a unique, original, and totally fun new twist on a familiar classic. But what really brings the track to life is LeAnn's peppy, energetic, and flirtatious vocals. I know that John Anderson's fans will slaughter me if I say that LeAnn's version is better than the original, but it comes pretty darn close, to say the least. If the rest of Lady and Gentlemen is as clever and interesting as the first single, then this is one covers album that is definitely worth checking out.

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