Jennifer Friedman,
You are Creation
(Kiva, 2005)

"Safe" is an apt term to describe You Are Creation by Jennifer Friedman. Friedman plays it safe, both in a positive and negative manner. The lyrics are well-written and nice, yet they're lacking an overly distinctive quality. Performance-wise, Friedman has a nice voice, but similar to the lyrics, there's a distinctive quality missing. (Imagine a calm version of Janis Joplin singing within her range, that's what her voice is like.)

Friedman's strength is her strong sense of storytelling, very straightforward and honest. In "Only Child" she discusses her fatherless childhood. "Necessary Evil" is a sadly all-too-familiar story of a woman in an abusive relationship. Friedman also shows a strong grasp of lyrical poetry, which is prevalent in the colorful evocative imagery in songs like "The Heart Unfolding" and "New Mexico."

However, as interesting as some songs are, the really distinctive ones are her socio-politically-oriented songs (unfortunately they are distinctive for negative reasons). Friedman attempts socio-political commentary, but instead of utilizing heavy harsh or poignant lyrics, she takes the safe route of ambiguous references and empty phrases like "something has got to change." Using music to criticize the actions of a government or evil corporations is obviously a powerful tool, but these songs don't utilize the full potential of its musical and lyrical armaments. Instead of biting, pointed criticism, the lyrics have weak generalities that have become pale cliches. The context of "Blood & Bone" more than likely insinuates the Iraq War and President Bush, but again, it's only in the context of the album's release date. Otherwise, this could be any anti-war song railing against any leader. A similar criticism can be levied at "Play the Game." The point of that song is a good one (greed vs. starvation), yet what is accomplished with mere complaints hidden behind indistinct references? It's the difference between standing up for a cause versus slightly sitting up.

You Are Creation is a pleasant, amicable album showing a singer-songwriter with potential. However, in a world crowded with musical options that provoke, challenge and demand, is something "safe" going to get your attention?

by C. Nathan Coyle
9 December 2006

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