Beth Ditto - Fake Sugar

by jim Harris Rating:7 Release Date:2017-06-16

Beth Ditto and I share one thing in common at least: We have both eaten squirrel. Unlike, Beth, no controversy when I tell people that. Where her and I come from, the middle part of America, squirrels are hunted, skinned, and fried like chicken. (The meat is grayer and considerably more gamey and more than a little greasier, but good.) After that though, her Arkansas upbringing pales in comparison to my southern Illinois roots, a couple hundred miles away. (You’ll have to read my novels to find out about that…) 

Regardless I love Beth Ditto. Her work with the Gossip over the years had this odd tension going that the band wanted to rock and punk and rockabilly it up and Beth had this incredibly beautiful voice just waiting for the right vehicle to carry it to a musical perfect place.

I would have to say her first solo album, Fake Sugar, takes Beth Ditto where, it appears, she always wanted to be. A pop star.

Fake Sugar is brilliantly executed pop music that Beth uses as a vehicle to showcase how great her voice actually is. She’s been compared to everyone from Janis Joplin to Tina Turner but I’ve always thought she had more Ronnie Spector in her.

The album starts out with another version of The Gossip’s ‘Fire in Fire’, combines it a little with the Springsteen song and then churns it into a pretty sexy number to kick things off really well.

If Ms. Ditto has a shot at that Adele/Flo/Katy/Madonna slot high in the charts, Fake Sugar has all the ingredients to push it there.   With pure pop standards like ‘Love in Real Life’ and ‘We Could Run’ Ditto has put together, thanks to a solid producer and another collaborator, pure and simple pop love songs of high quality.

But that might also be what’s wrong with this album as well. The music is slick and perfectly executed lighter fare techno and pop and once again, like I felt with The Gossip, her voice still hasn’t found the perfect collaboration with the right kind of music.  She doesn’t have quite the voice that Adele has, or the campy excesses of Katy or Madonna, and the music is a bit single-dimensional in comparison to the likes of Flo.

And that might be fine too since Beth Ditto goes against so many stereotypes and pop delivery standards. Maybe her incredible voice might never find the exact platform to fit into and that’s ok as well. She has one of the more brilliant voices anywhere and while these studio generated pop love songs aren’t probably going to get much airplay on my player, Fake Sugar should expand her audience considerably.

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