Hey! Don’t contrast and compare!

Yet another producer has reportedly been added to the ever-growing roster of producers working on Katharine McPhee’s album. UNeSS co-wrote Cassie’s “About Time” (a pop/R&B number filled with vagueish lyrics about moving on and hurting and stuff). UNeSS’s own recordings can also be found on his MySpace page, where he describes himself as “the 70s in a white suit” (I thought the 70s were about white suits…Saturday Night Fever, anyone?) and offers song samples of his original recordings, such as the poor-man’s-Prince-sounding “Old Skool Joint,” “Better Days” (clearly tinged with an 80s-era Michael Jackson sound), and the surprisingly good acoustic ballad “Sun In Your Sky,” if you can deal with the breathy, nasal, Timberlake-like vocals. His propensity for employing strange capitalization in his stage name automatically predisposes me to hate him (although it may be why McPhee is so eager to work with him–it’s a trait they have in common), his own music isn’t too bad…though the Cassie song is wretched.

So here’s the rundown of producers so far for the eventual (…) McPhee debut:
-UNeSS
-Ryan Leslie
-Nate Hills (who has produced the space-synth sounds–ugh–employed by Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado)
-The Neptunes
-Kara Dioguardi
-Timbaland (again with the space-synth thing)
-The Underdogs
-The omnipresent Babyface

And finally, the J Records exec who seems to be overseeing the whole thing is Steve Ferrara, who has this to say about the direction of McPhee’s album: “I want to see how urban she can go. Believably.” (Heh. White girl from Sherman Oaks? Answer: Not far.) Ferrara’s idea of “urban?” That’s right, you guessed it–“Open Toes,” which he describes as being “about hot shoes with open toes.” (Deep, man.)

While most of those afflicted with the McPheever think that this ever-growing amalgamation of uber-urban producers is a good thing, I’m just not so sure. The old adage “too many cooks spoil the broth” definitely has some truth to it, especially when it comes to record-making. The best albums are often defined by a thematic undercurrent that strings through each song on the disc, and unfortunately, that artistic vision can be lost when you’ve got five or six producers, each one likely more concerned with trying to make a name for himself with one hit single than with unifying an artist’s vision. Ryan Leslie himself admitted that the most important thing to come out of his meeting with Stever Ferrara was not the quality work that could be produced for McPhee, but rather the fact that he’s now considered as big as Timbaland and Babyface. While Kat’s no doubt got herself some real talent lined up here, she could very well wind up as another Cassie–one hit single, but a flop saleswise (Cassie only moved 270,000 copies of her album). Of course, Cassie’s rise to the top was almost exclusively fueled by MySpace, whereas Kat will have the American Idol brand backing her up. (There’s also the extra added question of whether Kat is looking for critical acclaim in the music industry, or whether she just wants to lay down a couple of music videos as a springboard to her future co-starring role as “Dixie Cupps” in Austin Powers Seven.)

Contrast McPhee’s mishmash of producers with Taylor Hicks’ (or Clive’s, or Taylor’s and Clive’s) decision to have one guy see the album through from start to finish. Taylor seems to have found a kindred spirit in Matt Serletic (of Rob Thomas and Carlos Santana fame). Serletic helped Hicks define the “modern whomp” sound that supposedly defines his debut album. I fully expect the album to unfortunately reflect the tension between Hicks and Serletic’s vision of a new sound that incorporates 60s-style sounds, blues, jazz and Cajun, and Clive’s well-established desire to infuse his gruffer vocalists with heavy doses of Splenda (exhibit A: Bo Bice and “The Real Thing”)…and even if Taylor does succeed in giving his album a single distinctive sound, it remains to be seen whether the critics will see it that way. Nevertheless, it seems to me that Taylor’s got a better shot at establishing a sound for himself by way of working with one producer than has McPhee.

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2 Responses to “Hey! Don’t contrast and compare!”


  1. 1 Nothlithawk777 December 7, 2006 at 7:49 pm

    You forgot Kara Dioguardi…

  2. 2 idolicious December 7, 2006 at 8:10 pm

    Whoops! Thanks for pointing that out. I’ll edit the post.


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