Brooke Fraser “Brutal Romantic” Album Review

Brooke Fraser

Prime Cuts: Brutal Romantic, Kings and Queens, Je Suis Pret

It's not Taylor Swift who has changed genre from country music to pop.   Brooke Fraser has also evolved from her brand of quirky folk-pop to a full album of experimental electronic pop with this new effort "Brutal Romantic."  Yet, what's even more interesting about this New Zealand songbird is that running parallel to her pop music career is her involvement as a writer and worship leader of Hillsong Worship.  What is an enigma is that she has completely kept both career trajectories separate from each other.  Under the moniker of her married name Brooker Ligertwood, she has written some of the Australian mega church's most cherished worship songs including "Hosanna," "I Will Rise (Beneath the Waters),""Like Incense (Sometimes by Step)" and "Our Father."  When she takes on her Brooke Fraser persona, rarely does she ever talk about her Hillsong endeavors.   While her Hillsong compositions are rifled with gorgeous expositions of Scripture; on her own solo outings, God is at best peripheral or designated into the vocabulary of allusions.  The same can be said of Fraser's fourth album "Brutal Romantic" too.

"Brutal Romantic" is Fraser's philosophical treatise set to music.  On these 10 newly written cuts we hear meandering through a labyrinth of life's knotty issues, such as the triviality in our relationships, the rustle between life and death, the worth of human life, the tyranny of the new media and so forth.  Waxing poetic, Fraser is also not afraid to weave abstract concepts and metaphors into her work that forms a tapestry that needs to be carefully appreciated.  And she's not afraid also to mine the depths of the languages; not only has she incorporated French phrases but she is the only song writer in recent years to use the words like "tableu vivants" and "epaulettes" in her lyrics.  Thus, the meaning of the songs would be lost if you treat this album just as elevator muzak. This album, like rich poetry, needs to be ruminated, pondered, analyzed and appreciated.

For those who have acquainted themselves with the acoustic-folk styling of Fraser over her last triumvirate of releases will be surprised to hear the album's opening track and teaser song "Psychosocial."  A song shrouded in heavy electric drum beats and a highly computerized distorted vocals of Fraser, "Psychosocial" which deals with the abuse of the Internet, presents a more mechanical side of Fraser than we are used to.  Despite its static sounding electric beat, "Kings and Queens" is most affable with its engaging sprightly funk melody that reminds us of the worth of human life.  Pigging back on a similar theme is "Je Suis Pret," French for "I Am Ready."  Using the dawn of the sun by the beaches of a seashore as one of the song's controlling metaphors, "Je Suis Pret" is essentially a hymn of hope.

"Brutal Romantic," the tile cut, is itself a piece of intricately composed piece of art.  This song is where classic music meets electronica.  With soaring orchestrated strings, a teased out beautifully crafted melody, and a cold spikey beat, the use of contrasts aptly brings out the song's message about the double-edges of life.  "New Year's Eve" is another ballad of note.  Not the campfire Auld Lang Syne sing along that we may glean from its titular, "New Year's Eve" is stoic, brooding, and yearning all at the same time.  Perhaps, one of the major weakness of the album is that the songs are far too smart that the lyrics may just behoove the majority of Brooke's listeners.  And the metallic coating that she has on the songs may also robbed this album of its intimacy. 



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