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Beating the Slump

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Pop music is in turmoil. Britney is drowning in her success, Justin crossed over to hip-hop and Pink went punk and lost touch with fans.

Billboard’s bookies are feverishly looking to make up for what’s lost. Jessica Simpson and Christina Aguilera aside, bookmakers bank on comeback records from golden oldies like Prince, Blondie, Alanis and even “MMMbop” boy trio Hanson who are releasing new music in April.

More potent remedies to the pop slump are in closer reach than you might think. Take for example JC Chasez’s debut album “Schizophrenic.” This effort will surprise many even though the odds are against him.

The lead singer of teen sensation *N SYNC is challenged to shed his tame boyband image while avoiding comparisons to band mate and pal Justin Timberlake.

This odd case of double jeopardy has worked fully in Chasez’s favor. “Schizophrenic” starts where Timberlake left off. The album has a distinct mature sound, versatile vocals and no less than 15 diverse tracks that should withstand the public’s rigorous test of comparison.

Timberlake’s millions-grossing collaboration with The Neptunes focused primarily on hip-hop infused pop. Chasez has taken the chance to experiment with a lot more genres that are all packaged in a sleek pop outfit, including hip-hop, funk, electroclash and even reggae.

The ex-Mickey Mouse Club actor co-wrote all of the songs on this album with an illustrious bunch of collaborators such as long-time friend Robb Boldt, R&B hero Dallas Austin and electronica wizards Basement Jaxx. The singer also worked with Jaxx’ Simon Ratcliffe and Felix Buxton on their “Kish Kash” album.

Chasez recently became the latest victim of tighter broadcast decency guidelines when the NFL refused to let him perform his single “Some Girls” at the Pro Bowl All-Star Football Game. In turn, the celebrity refused to sing the national anthem at the event.

The song is a lean percussion tune that might imply sexual content, but which is in fact playful and flirtatious when Chasez sings, “Some girls dance with women. Knowing that it gives them attention. And I wanna get in with them.”

On “She Got Me,” Chasez takes cues from late 70s soul and disco with a mellow feel-good groove that is reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s work on “Off The Wall.” With fitting high-pitch vocals he croons about a new-found love who “was such a find. It's like she was designed.”

Chasez is particularly strong on the album’s hooky ballads “Build My Word,” “Dear Goodbye” and “Lose Myself.” He is able to translate his vulnerability into profoundly intimate love songs that convey great vocal timing and sensitivity

His experimentation with 80s electroclash on “All Day Long I Dream About Sex” and “ Come To Me” works out well. The synth pounding dance tunes prove that electronica remains musically relevant in today’s hip-hop oriented pop scene.

On the other hand, Chasez fails with the reggae tune “Everything You Want,” which is dull at best with an odd synthetic instrumentation and Sting-inspired vocals.

He adds a nice gay flavor to the thumbing “One Night Stand,” which includes a sample of Donna Summer’s Studio 54 classic “I Feel Love.”

“Schizophrenic” turns out to be a surprisingly good effort from an artist who has clearly outgrown his boyband roots. JC Chasez delivers the goods quite effortlessly without feeling restraint by listeners’ expectations and musical boundaries.

March 31, 2004 | Permalink

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BTW, I heard rumors Robbie Williams want's to start an electroclash/ future pop project, do you happen to know anything about this?

Posted by: FeldFunker at Sep 21, 2004 3:17:00 AM

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