POP MUSIC REVIEW : Fricke's Jingles Fit In With Simulated Sincerity

It says a little something about Janie Fricke's artistic perspective that she began her musical career singing commercial jingles.

It says a lot about her artistic sensibility that, rather than distance herself from that period and material, she still sings jingles in shows such as the one she performed Monday at the Crazy Horse in Santa Ana.

So there she was--on the same stage where some of the most respected, least compromising country artists have appeared--singing snippets of jingles for 7-Up, Dial and McDonald's.

Actually, that unapologetic ode to commercialism fit rather snugly with the way Fricke simulated sincerity throughout the show.

Toward the end of the first set, for instance, she acknowledged "you fans (who) make the dreams come true. Thank you--I love you very much." Just when you thought it wasn't possible for the show to more closely resemble a "Saturday Night Live" parody of a smarmy lounge crooner, she left the stage, took a few steps and feigned surprise that she was being called back for an encore.

Give it a rest, Janie. You've been at this game for a decade--you know how encores work. Besides, after less than an hour on stage--considering that everyone paid 25 bucks a ticket--it was nice that you could work one more song into your schedule.

So aside from that, how did you like the show, Mrs. Lincoln?

It wasn't easy to get past her moldus operandi, of course, but there were several moments Monday when she demonstrated the control and range that helped her win a handful of Female Vocalist of the Year awards over the years from the country music industry.

Backed by a sturdy, flexible quintet, she seemed equally skillful and assured whether singing slow, aching invitations ("Tell Me a Lie"), mid-tempo, worried reportage ("She's Single Again"), or racing, rollicking cautionary tales ("He's a Heartache (Looking for a Place to Happen)").

She sometimes ran into trouble supplying the proper emotional level for some of these and other Fricke favorites. She was a bit blustery on many of the upbeat numbers, scooting over the implications and nuances of the song and therefore not fully representing them vocally.

Similarly, she brought a heavy-handed, occasionally syrupy approach to the slower material, which ended up obscuring--or even trivializing--what had been simple, direct, potent emotions and observations.

Now that's bad news. The Vegas-ized look, pseudo-charm and commercial bits in the set were disturbing enough. But when the glitz and lounge attitude start undermining a good singer's ability to sing good songs, it's time for Janie Fricke to reappraise things--and clean up her act.

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