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Melissa Etheridge

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Album Review

This was one of the most stunning debut albums of the 1980s. Given the domination of synthesizer pop on the radio, Melissa Etheridge was a breath of fresh air when she burst out of the gate with this roots rock album sung with a sensitive bravado often compared to Janis Joplin. Although the passionate vocal deliveries are similar, the comparisons end there: Etheridge is a Midwesterner who was clearly influenced by classic rock artists such as Bruce Springsteen and John Cougar Mellencamp. The main theme explored is the emotional complexity of relationships, and throughout the album she sings about the hunger for affection, the pain of unrequited love, and the fire of obsessive romance. While the limited scope of the songwriting requires the listener to enter her world and exorcise the demons of relationships past, the album is full of infectious, up-tempo songs that propel the album forward. Etheridge's true talent, however, is reconciling uncontrollable emotions such as jealousy with a strong and fiercely independent spirit ("Similar Features," "Like the Way I Do"). Perhaps that's why Etheridge became a role model for a generation of young women who found her to be an uncompromising artist unafraid to expose (and celebrate) her strengths and weaknesses. This is a fine introduction to Melissa Etheridge, and it is one of her most enjoyable albums.