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Fefe Dobson

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Album Review

Working closely with producer Jay Levine, Fefe Dobson created a rousing debut that, despite being a highly melodic and relentlessly effective pop album, is rescued from flavor-of-the-moment dissipation by a schizophrenic rock crunch and her own attractively bad attitude. The histrionic kiss-off "Bye Bye Boyfriend" lurches like Tracy Bonham's "Mother Mother," whipping wildly between a headbanging chorus and shuffling, atmospheric verses. "I remember how it was when we started off/With your tattoo and your lip pierced/And the raggedy style you used to rock" — Dobson doesn't pause between these words. Instead she lets them tumble, stumbling over one another in a giddy summation of the relationship's salad days. This is just one instance where Dobson's diction, dicked-over anger, and damn huge voice goose her debut past its popternative tendencies. She coats the couplets of bombastic pop-punk opener "Stupid Little Love Song" in layers of jaded sarcasm — just like a frowning punk rock girl would do if she had to reveal her crush to the captain of the football team. "Everything" marries the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Under the Bridge" to Michelle Branch, but it's just Fefe making that unholy union work. She has to move a bit faster on "Rock It Till You Drop It," a strange studio shape-shifter that strips down and urbanizes Eric Clapton's "It's in the Way That You Use It" while referencing Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way." It also features a cameo from...Tone-Loc? Yes, it's this kind of freestyle borrowing and reassembly that might marginalize an artist who was something less then herself; fortunately, words like "less" and "marginal" mean little to Fefe Dobson. She inserts a touching piano breakdown into the rousing rock plea of "Kiss Me Fool," and swallows whole the crunchy, muted power chords of "Unforgiven." Some sugar pop albums would ask a deadbeat dad for his love, if such a song were even included. "Unforgiven" is that song, but it staunchly refuses any kind of forgiveness. "Where were you when I plugged in my first guitar?" Dobson spits during a litany of absentee moments, and the track's beautifully atmospheric breaks only make the subsequent urgency of its stiletto power chords more palpable. Fefe Dobson definitely has an opportunistic streak, and its stylistic cherry-picking can be trying. But production niceties and savvy marketing can't fake the talent Fefe has. It's her willingness to inject pop with pluck and rock as much as she flutters that makes Dobson's debut much more than just a popternative clone. Best of all, it still caters to those casual fans who won't know any better.


Born: 28 February 1985 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Fefe Dobson was a young Toronto-based songstress who brokered demo recordings and a series of solid industry showcases into a deal with Island/Def Jam, which issued her eponymous debut in October 2003. The album showcased Dobson's brassy vocals over a pop-alternative, radio-ready groove skating between styles and incorporating plenty of electric guitar dynamics. For her part, the 18-year-old cited vocal and songwriting influences ranging from Judy Garland to Kurt Cobain. As lead single "Take Me Away"...
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Fefe Dobson, Fefe Dobson
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