AN OPEN LETTER FROM IRIS:
As one of indie rock’s most celebrated icons, Liz Phair has created a standard for herself that I’m sure she is struggling to live up to with her second pop album release. But I don’t want this to be like every other review. I know her fans, both old and new, are going to have mixed feelings about Somebody’s Miracle, but for me, I applaud Ms. Phair. She has an album on a prestigious music magazine’s list of best albums of all time, she tours despite being a mom, and she even performed at this year’s waning Lollapalooza in her hometown. She is also fabulously attractive, which is ironic because in today’s corporate music world, the beautiful people are the ones that tend to sing for MTV. Writing music is difficult, but writing indie rock music I think is an accomplishment that is seemingly overlooked. The hipster audience is far more critical about their music than any other format. As soon as a band submits a song that is radio-worthy, that said band has lost their fantastic underground roots and elite status among indie rock fans. They will whine and complain that their favorite artist has sold out, writing music for the masses, conforming to society and moving away from writing music for the music and instead for the money. And if artists have to “sell-out” in order to make a buck, and in that process they lose a fan base, then something is wrong. I write this message to you because I saw something this weekend, and it changed my perspective on many of the ‘Liz Phair’ issues: I saw her in concert… again. However, this show was post the release of Somebody’s Miracle, out October 4th. I was interested to see how the audience, her fans, would respond to her playing her new pop tunes live. Never, in all of the concerts that I have been to (and I am quite seasoned), have I seen an audience like I saw at her show. And honestly, I don’t think Liz expected it either. Present were her oldest fans and the teenagers who listen to the radio. She blushed while we sang along to every single one of her songs, throwing punches in the air as if we were at a punk rock concert and even joining her while she played tracks from her first self-titled pop album. I was dancing more to her music than I have at dance-pop shows. I even danced with a stranger and we smiled at each other because we connected over something that we both loved without even speaking to each other: her music. Someone requested a song and Liz didn’t even remember how it went, and asked the fan to come up on stage with her to help with the song. Even guys were bellowing out asking Liz to have their children, along with singing their favorites. These fans were truly in love with everything that has to do with Liz Phair. With that being said…
One thing that fans of Liz Phair, and anyone for that matter, need to realize is that people grow up, they move on. She’s still somebody’s blow job queen, however, there is no more fu*k and run: she’s a mom; mom’s can’t do that. Music style can change too, and in this case, it has. Once the indie rock idol, breaking the steadfast male dominance of the genre, the pretty girl who doesn’t sing pretty girl music, Liz stood tall and wrote a self-titled pop album. Somebody’s Miracle can be said to be the follow-up to this record, when in reality Somebody’s Miracle is her sixth release. The blend of catchy radio-friendly pop tunes and her indie rock roots really come together on Somebody’s Miracle. Her off-key voice comes alive on tracks, proving that even though some might believe she has conformed to the glitz and glamour of the American pop queen, she will always be a rock princess. The title track “Everything To Me” is the first single and ten times more mature than any of her earlier releases, musically and lyrically. The uplifting positive characteristics of this track pave the mood of the record, which is good since millions are going to be exposed to it thanks to airplay. “Lazy Dreamer” is another core track that has potential to be big, due in part to a rockin’, bass-heavy melody with a candy-coated hook, that I can see winning the ears of many pop fans and the hearts back of lost Phair believers. “Leap of Innocence” and “Table For One”, while both audibly different, are also very strong tracks that embrace her deep vocals, revive her early acoustic-focused gems, and help keep the record from being branded as totally pop. I chuckled at the extreme similarity of “Got My Own Thing” to that of “Ooh Boy” by Real McCoy, however, there could be underlying humor to the intentions of that and the implications of originality in the track title, or I could totally be reading into that way too much. Either way, Somebody’s Miracle really captures the current Liz Phair. Sometimes artists release albums that just aren’t up to par with the rest of their library, and that’s okay, they usually realize it and admit their faults. Some people believe this is an apology for her earlier record-flop. I don’t even see a reason to apologize; she writes fantastic music, it’s expressive, catchy and celebrated by her fans when she performs it live. She is a beautiful black sheep to pop music and an established sweetheart amongst the indie rock legends, and for her, this record is a keystone for bridging the gap that so many people believe exist between her roots and recent work, and I think she did a fantastic job.