March 24, 2003

Laura Branigan - Branigan (1982)

Obv. enough to me and everyone else that Laura Branigan was a sweet starry-eyed kid from the Hudson Valley, but the early '80s being what they were (i.e. that popcult upheaval sparking wild and unruly transitions-syncretisms between hard rock and momndad ballad schmaltz and the burgeoning Supermotivated Eighties Asshole sound and whatever savvy Italian producers could salvage of disco), her handlers still dressed her up for the photo shoot in rokkchikk tartwear: black leather pants, firetruck-red buttoned-down blouse, tousled unwashed hair. Same thing happened to Sheena Easton somewhere between "Morning Train" and "Sugar Walls." Same thing happened to a rash of girl singers in mid-late 2002, in the wake of the trash-rock revival, the critical mass of mash-ups' popularity (hip-hop and dance choons legitimized by RAWK -- rock is the imperialist USA to nonrock's "needy" third world), the impact of VH1 Classic's retrofitted "Rock Fest" on the lives of digital-cable subscribers.

Which proves that this stuff happens in 20-year cycles.

But thank goodness for industry pressures; otherwise the pop world would remain as myopic and boring as the uninformed constantly accuse it of being. Branigan sounds like it looks, and it looks like its release date, so even if Branigan herself wasn't actually the kind of pseudo-Italo-country-Meatloaf-Benatar she was modeled to be (and why would she be, come to think of it?) (oh and in addition to the above reference points, on the glam-boogie "Down Like a Rock" her voice has an odd '70s-Yoko echo treatment), at least the pitchmen weren't bullshitting us about what we could expect. If the front cover didn't tell you enough (white-on-red raised italic lettering, Ms. B posing rockstarishly with legs semi-splayed, against a smoky grey background), flip it 'round to the back liner notes for reassurance:

"Braniganwas produced in Los Angeles by Jack White with the help of Greg Mathieson. They employed top musicians, including Toto guitarist Steve Lukather, bassists Lee Sklar and Bob Glaub and synthesist Michael Boddicker. The leadoff single, "Gloria," is an Italian pop song with new English lyrics by the albums musical contractor, Trevor Veitch. The successful follow-up single, "All Night With Me," established a ballad style which has served Laura Branigan well."