CD Review: Debbie Harry

Necessary Evil

By Taylor Toothman |

Hmm. I’m not sure what Debbie (oh, excuse me, Deborah) Harry is thinking. She waits a gruesome 14 years to come out with another album, and then crushes me cripplingly with it. How can she do it to me? When I heard that the face and voice of the iconic punk rock mega-group Blondie was releasing her fifth solo album I’ll admit I was first in line, thinking, “Yes! Oh my gosh, yes! Debbie’s back and she’ll be incredible!”

But oh my gosh, no. No way. I am so downhearted to have to report that our beloved Dirty Harry should’ve stayed out of the studio, because what I found upon an initially exuberant listen to Necessary Evil was nothing short of painful disappointment. I know you’re just as dumbfounded by this monstrosity as I, but let me assure you that the basis for this earth-shattering shock is legitimate.

Deb opens up with her album’s first single, “Two Times Blue.” This wouldn’t be so bad (it almost harkens back to vintage Blondie) except for the fact that about twenty seconds in to the song she opens her mouth and something just isn’t right. I cringe and it hits me. Aaah! She sounds like she hasn’t had a decent vocal lesson since the good old days when she was famous. The woman is 62 now, I get it, but she and her mysteriously non-wrinkled face has aged gracefully like, say, Joan Rivers or Annette Funicello, who has realized her potential and now makes teddy bears. The nasal funkiness that worked for Debbie in her prime has turned against her and she sounds like she’s trying too hard to reach notes. Not a good sign for what ensues.

“School for Scandal” is in session in track two. There comes a point in time when it is no longer appropriate to sing about educational facilities, be they for learning how to maximize the emotional detriment of others or otherwise. And that is when you haven’t actually been inside a classroom for nearly half a century. That’s all I can say before I start bawling.

I am thoroughly convinced that track three’s title isn’t “If I Had You” like it says on the track-listing; it’s actually “Somebody Please Just Pull My Hair Out Right Now So I Can Drown Out This Alley-Cat Serenade With My Screams.” This sounds harsh. And it is, but look: if you wrote and tried to perform a song that even Avril Lavigne would throw out because of its blatant disregard for musical merit (juicy, heartfelt lyrics include “I can’t stop your eyes from saying things we already knew/ so look at me and tell me what to do”) you would need to hear the barefaced truth, too.

The rest of the album follows suit. Fourteen songs that range from ridiculous, with the totally anti-Harry hip-hop bummer “Dirty N Deep,” to downright awkward when she tries to play serious with “What Is Love,” leave me confused and upset. I hope to goodness that Deborah Harry does not honestly “text ’til the end of time.” Picture Mary Catherine Gallagher wailing karaoke to an already-shameful Cheetah Girls hit (not without choreography, of course) and you have the new, improved Deborah Harry.

I recently saw a picture of Blondie performing in Thetford, England, and with her hair slicked back I swear she looked just like a squinting Hillary Clinton in an odd, futuristic metallic Velour jacket. She had both arms raised up and I thought she was giving a campaign speech. But no, she was trying to rock out and prove to us die-hards that she’s still edgy and cool. She’s no successfully-old Joni Mitchell, I’m afraid; she instead brings to mind a mentally-fifteen grandmother trying to win over The Hoff on America’s Got Talent. I really do hate to be scathing to my (now former) inspiration, but some things just don’t get better with age. And this is one Necessary Evil that sure isn’t.

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