Album Review: Mindy Smith – Stupid Love

Stephen Deusner | August 20th, 2009

mind-smith-stupid-love On Stupid Love, Mindy smith has one boot planted squarely in country and a high heel in pop, and you can imagine how hard it would be for her to walk around like that. Jettisoning the largely acoustic arrangements of her previous albums, her third full-length (not counting that Christmas record) emphasizes a studio-tweaked sound courtesy of producers Ian Fitchuk and Justin Louks, who add more orchestration and more elements to her songs. This change in direction may be a commercial gesture from an artist who, by all accounts, should be selling a lot more records than she is, or it may be intended as artistic experimentation by a singer looking to broaden her musical palette, but her motivations are beside the point: How does Smith sound in this setting?

Despite some rough patches, she fares well enough. Smith doesn’t have the most distinctive voice in country or pop, and there are scores of singers—from Allison Moorer to Courtney Jaye to Shawn Colvin—who have similarly textured sopranos that keen and break in similar patterns. It’s what Smith does with her voice on Stupid Love that sets her apart: the way she measures her phrasing gracefully on “Highs and Lows,” the way she holds her notes a bit longer than expected on “Telescope,” as if she’s developed a sentimental attachment to them. A strong songwriter with an ear for bracingly direct confessions and hummable melodies, she comes across like an actress inhabiting different roles deeply and intuitively.

Her chameleon nature has always thwarted easy categories: From her first notes on her cover of “Jolene” in 2003, Smith has been embraced by pop, country, Christian, and adult contemporary audiences. But on Stupid Love, that all-things-to-all-people quality can be a bit frustrating, especially in tandem with Fitchuk and Louks’ production. All the pop flourishes often distract from, rather than strengthen, her emotional appeals. “Love Lost” and “Love Chases After Me” both sound too fragile for such thudding beats and syrupy strings, and the loungey piano gives “Surface” a plastic sheen.

In general, the dense arrangements don’t let these songs breathe very much, but that’s not to say there aren’t some highs on the album. The rubbery bass and excitable momentum of “Highs and Lows” lends the chorus some energy and pluck, and opener “What Went Wrong” has a strummy elegance that gives shape to her forlorn sentiments. If she’s not exactly believable as the hard drinker she portrays herself to be in that song, Smith ably projects romantic conflict and tragic forlornness throughout Stupid Love. Too bad the awkward mix of pop and country obscures the nuance of her performance.

3 Stars

  1. stormy
    August 20, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Mindy is always a singer who I want to like more than I actually seem to be able to like. She is a deft songwriter and a solid, though not spectacular, vocalist, but her albums as a whole just don’t quite work the way that her peers seem to get theirs to work.

  2. Steve Harvey
    August 20, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    Stupid love! Trix are for kids!

  3. Stormy
    August 20, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    When it comes to love, aren’t tricks for grown ups?

  4. Rick
    August 20, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    Whenever I read interviews with Mindy she came across as one of those unsettled “complex” personalities. The production of this new album sounds likes its unsettled as well. She’s somewhere on the continuum between Tift Merritt and Mindy McCready…

  5. jim moulton
    October 13, 2009 at 3:11 am

    This album is not typical of Mindy, I really liked her 1st album, “One Moment More” which was a gem of a recording, and her vocals were steeped in emotion, the new pop sound does not work for me, plus the album has very poor sound quality.

  6. Harry
    November 9, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    On “Love Chases After Me” she sounded like Stevie Nicks a little bit. I liked it

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