Michelle Branch – Hotel Paper
At 19, Michelle Branch is quite an accomplished teenager. This singer-songwriter’s debut album, “The Spirit Room,” went platinum as she scored with a string of hits like “Everywhere,” “All You Wanted” and “Goodbye To You.” Another highlight was her Grammy win for her collaboration with Carlos Santana on the popular “Game of Love.”
Now, Michelle has launched her sophomore album. “Hotel Paper” represents a marked increase in both personal and professional maturity. Branch kicks off with “Are You Happy Now,” her edgiest single to date where she fumes at an ex while rocking out to a siren of guitars and pulsating drums. Although the song may not be fun for the boyfriend, it is for the listeners. The rants don’t last, though, as Branch slows down with a bevy of mid-tempo tracks.
Branch also duets with Sheryl Crow on “Love Me Like That,” a song that infuses folksy guitar playing with pop-rock beats. The variety of styles showcases Michelle’s versatile voice, which can convey everything from sweet vulnerability to aggressive defiance.
Lyrically, Branch is not as impressive. She lacks poeticism that would elevate her songs to another level. Every track focuses on the ever-popular subject of love, and she fails to add a new spin, instead recycling cliches.
Nevertheless, Branch has her shining moments, with memorable lines. She even experiments with a foreign language on “Til I Get Over You,” layering the English chorus with echoes of French.
Despite lyrical flaws, this latest album provides plenty of stirring tunes with choruses that can hook even the most stubborn of audiences. Fans can also be proud of Branch’s artistic credibility: she plays guitar and wrote (or co-wrote) all the tracks. Give “Hotel Paper” a try. After one listen, you’ll already be anticipating this talented artist’s next CD. .