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The Subway Recordings

Susan Cagle

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Album Review

Just based on background information, it would seem that Susan Cagle could make a pretty interesting album. Her parents were cult members, she spent her childhood traveling the world singing and playing the guitar with her family (she has nine siblings), and she was finally discovered in New York (after she had left the cult), where she was working as a performer deep under the city streets. And even from just cursory knowledge about her debut — which was compiled from two live sets she played in Times Square Station and Grand Central — The Subway Recordings holds such appealing promise. So the mind-boggling question is, then, why is her music so completely and disappointedly ordinary? This isn't meant disparagingly, because it's still a fun album in an Ashlee Simpson/Kelly Clarkson, or even Sheryl Crow (who Cagle sounds remarkably like in the heavily "The First Cut Is the Deepest"-inspired "Ask Me") kind of way. But it is certainly meant perplexedly. Without delving deep into Cagle's psychology, her record seems more like something that asserts her normalcy rather than shows anything unique about her. Her songs are the type that can be sung along to after one listen, all about innocent love and happiness and confidence in one's self. They're not bad, but they're not better than anything else out there, either. Occasionally she does approach topics from a more interesting perspective, giving at least a brief glimpse into what she is, like in the cute love song, "Shakespeare," or the self-accepting "Happiness Is Overrated," which keeps trying — and nearly succeeds — to turn into a chorus of "Complicated" (hey, even the rhyme would work). Unfortunately, not much else stands out here from the rest of the teen pop realm, even with recurring hints (Cagle's sense of lyrical rhythm and her voice are both quite good) that she can do something more and go somewhere else, which just makes it even more disappointing when she keeps getting stuck in repeating guitar arpeggios, predictable melodies, and saccharine lyrics. The music on The Subway Recordings, with the background noises and weary commuter clapping, would be great to hear while waiting for the 7 train, but as an album, it doesn't last much more than a drive home during rush-hour.

Biography

Born: Aruba

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '00s

A common face in New York subways since 2002, singer Susan Cagle was signed to a record deal when producer Jay Levine saw her playing at the Herald Square Street station at 34th Street. Cagle, who spent her childhood traveling the world with her family — who were part of the Children of God religious sect — singing and playing the guitar, had never seriously considered music as a career. But after she set off on her own to New York in 2001, she soon found that she could make just as much...
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The Subway Recordings, Susan Cagle
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