Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Mandy Barnett is a Nashville thrush with word-of-mouth ecstatic enough to make anyone out of the loop suspicious--especially after her well-reviewed, technically proficient 1996 debut stalled well short of worldwide renown. Really, so what if she was then taken up by comeback-minded biz tastemonger Seymour Stein and produced by washed-up countrypolitan legend Owen Bradley? I've Got a Right To Cry (Sire), that's what: a delectable Pop-with-a-capital-P triumph whether it sells or not. All cushy strings and corny choruses, plinking piano and twanging guitar, countrypolitan is as retro as lounge even if it avoids that unhealthy hipster pallor. But in this version, slightly speeded up and touched with genuine swing, it's made for the easy range and creamy tang of Barnett's gorgeous young voice. Anyone with a weakness for Kay Starr or Patsy Cline won't believe it when they hear Barnett lay some loving on the perky chestnuts and newly designed weepers that grace this thematically unified work of art, which opens with the title tune and closes with one called Don't Forget To Cry.

The reissue moguls at Rhino rub hip hop's long history as a singles music in our faces on the shameless Millennium Hip-Hop Party--18 crossover smashes that are all upbeat, all ingratiating, and mostly great records. Sometime sanitary (Bust a Move, Parents Just Don't Understand), sometimes not (Humpty Dance, Baby Got Back), they're so catchy you could play every one for Garth Brooks's birthday bash. Afterwards, having reminded Garth that rap is big fun, move on to Soundbombing II (Rawkus), which compiles an impressive barrage of "underground" tracks. They're all high-energy, all confrontational, and, from Eminem on down, often pretty great themselves. Don't-try-this-at-home line of the year: "Fuck it if I'm gonna die at least I shot the mayor."

Playboy, May 1999

Apr. 1999 June 1999