It’s expected that being an artist means to outdo yourself in one way or another, whether it be by going into new territory or at least do what you’ve already done and make it better. On The Emerald City, Melanie Doane fails to do either as she recreates some of the ideas that have made up some of her previous material but presents it in a less interesting way.
The album starts off pleasantly enough with Ruby Slippers, a song whose lyrics come from The Wizard of Oz used to represent how life shouldn’t be taken for granted and to appreciate what we have. Meanwhile, later on in the album the song Humpty uses the story of Humpty Dumpty to represent not being afraid to take chances. Melanie is known for her metaphors, having used them on some of her biggest hits Adam’s Rib, Goliath and Wilma or a Betty Man.
A few previously released tracks make their way on the album. Back To L.A. is a song Melanie wrote about needing to get away to a more glamourous place in order to re-energize and, as she puts it “fall in love with myself again.” Another older song is also the cutest track on the record, Sweet On You. A lighter pop song with a sprinkle of country about the uncertainty that surrounds you over everything else after you’ve fallen in love.
Melanie’s vocals are soothing and bring a sense of familiarity if you were ever a fan of her late 90s songs from Adam’s Rib but her biggest weakness is her songwriting. And upon hearing The Emerald City, it’s a realization that it’s always been there. Disaster Waiting To Happen attempts to use clever metaphors to describe her state of mind before something is about to happen, “I’m a disaster waiting to happen/I’m the earth just ready to quake/I’m a blind man who’s jay walkin’/I’m a heart that knows it’s gonna break” in addition to using standard Titanic and Romeo and Juliet examples. Much the way that she wrote Wilma Or A Betty Man (“are you a Wilma or a Betty Man/do you drive a Mercedes or a Trans Am/Do you have a single malt or beer in your hand/Will you love me like no other can”) or You Are What You Love (“I love orange popsicles/I love Van Gogh/I love John and Paul and George and Ringo/I love peanut butter/I love coffee too/I love to makeout in the car/I love the song Nothing Compares To You/…You are what you love”).
The entirety of The Stupider I Am is almost painful to listen to. The lyrics “Don’t be an asshole/Don’t be a jerk/It’s so crazy/It just might work” are cringe inducing as is the second verse “Do unto others/Blah blah blah/Be true to yourself/Rah rah rah/Words so simple/Words so true/Easy to say/but hard to do”. Unfortunately in these examples, the songs aren’t salvaged by impressive instrumentation or melody so they’re already sunk.
The saving grace of the record comes with Late Bloomer. It would have fit beautifully on Adam’s Rib. Although that thought alone makes one wonder what Melanie has done to improve her art since the 1998 release of that album. Late Bloomer has wonderful production and the song itself is pleasantly performed.
The Emerald City brings to light something that has always been put on the back burner. The poor lyrics that have accompanied her songs. But being someone so nice that you want to see succeed, you’re willing to put that thought away and sing along because Melanie has had fun songs over the years. But if I want that soothing sense of familiarity in hearing her music, I’ll go back and listen to Adam’s Rib, albeit knowing that it will never be improved upon.
1. Ruby Slippers
2. Sweet On You
3. The Stupider I Am
4. From Your Lips To God’s Ears
5. Disaster Waiting To Happen
6. How Can A Girl
7. Baby Come Home
8. Back To L.A.
9. Late Bloomer
11. Make God Laugh