Monique Berry

Monique Berry

B&M Music Productions, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Whenever there is a musician who makes a major impact in one field or another, there is bound to be a flood of similar-minded musicians jumping on that bandwagon in the hopes of catching even a small percentage of that fame.

Listening to the self-titled debut from Monique Berry, one thought came to mind: she's trying very hard to be a less controversial Tori Amos. All she needs is a stronger set of pipes, a little more skill in the songwriting department and a major increase in backing musicians.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The 10 songs that make up this disc all have very sparse arrangements, sometimes relying on synthesized percussion to try and provide a backbone to the music. Sorry, but this doesn't work, especially when the majority of the songs use no percussion at all.

It's not that the lack of a drummer is always a bad thing. The centerpiece of this album, "Mounty Town," is the kind of song that would have failed if it had been orchestrated to the hilt. The starkness in the arranging works in perfectly with the imagery Berry creates in the song, and it demonstrates there just may be weight to the belief that she's in line for fame.

If only the bulk of Monique Berry had this kind of power; were it so, this disc would be unstoppable. Tracks like "Pick Me Up" and "Pretty Faces" all have some kind of hubris (the former in the basic song structure, the latter in the theme of racial unity - it's been done before, and done better). Similarly, much of the music on this one just doesn't hold up well on repeat listens, a criticism one could also make of some of Amos's work.

Perhaps the biggest shock is Berry's voice - namely, how it doesn't quite have the range and power I expected it to. Songs like "I Think I Do" and "Feel No More" don't have the kind of emotional oomph put into the vocal delivery that they so call for. Hurting the situation is, as mentioned, the sparse arrangements. It's almost as if Berry cut many of these songs for publishing purposes, just to have something committed to tape that said she indeed was the author. Such a recording, I could have understood. Not trying to push yourself to the limit on your debut effort is something I do have a problem with.

There is no doubt that Berry could well be a force to be reckoned with; it's just that this disc doesn't offer enough proof to back those thoughts up. Berry is about to release a second disc; let's hope she internalized the lessons this disc should have taught all around.

Rating: C

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© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of B&M Music Productions, and is used for informational purposes only.