Friday, August 25, 2017

All You Can Eat

Over the summer I have been revisiting the discography of k.d. lang. I had forgotten how much of her music I have enjoyed over her career.

She never fit into the country music genre in which her career was first marketed. Here was this quirky lesbian making music for a country audience that then and even still today isn't largely accepting of artists that aren't straight men or straight blonde women.

Fortunately for k.d. her incredible voice and talent defied most any label you could try to place on it and she has made some wonderful music that still is worth listening to today.

After shedding the country music label and going to a more pop/mainstream sound she broke new ground with her 1992 album Ingenue. It produced her most memorable hit, Constant Craving. Thanks to this album and that song in particular she found herself a new and more accepting audience for her music and for her life.

In looking more in depth at her music I want to skip ahead to the 1995 album, All You Can Eat. I found myself returning to this album several times over the last few months and enjoying how fresh it still sounds today.

All You Can Eat might be her most pop sounding album out of her entire discography and you see her songwriting become more playful, less restricted and definitely more open and happy about her life.

This album is all about love and sexuality. In interviews promoting the release of the album k.d. would say that the title of the album was about taking in and embracing as much of life as you could until you were full. At the time she had moved from Los Angeles back to her native Canada saying that she never fit into the whole Hollywood celebrity lifestyle and was full of that scene.

The opening song on the album is If I Were You. This song is written from the perspective of a person wishing they were someone else; someone more popular and loved and how they would live that life and how great it would be if they were that person. This song features a nice bouncy bass beat and her fine vocals gliding over the top like a smooth breeze. It is a nice medium tempo song to open the album and set the tone for a pleasant listening experience. It's the kind of song you could listen to over brunch on a sunny day.

Maybe is the next song and it delves into the thoughts of a person questioning their relationship with someone and questioning themselves. The song explores all the possibilities of many scenarios of what is and isn't possible and continues to use the word "maybe." She sings, "it could be disaster but no maybe it won't?" I envision someone relaxing at home in the evening over a glass of wine asking these questions of themselves. This could have been easily interpreted as a negative song but with her delivery k.d. actually makes this a kind of neutral to positive sounding song. This song is for me about that fear of the unknown of the beginning of stronger feelings for someone as you get to know them better.

The themes of uncertainty and love continue with the next song and introduces sex, You're Okay. This song is the foreplay part of sex leading up to the next song, Sexuality. You're Okay opens with the line, "I am rocked with paranoia for I have brought myself  before you nakedly awaiting your okay." The song continues on with the person wondering if they are coming on too strong to their object of affection. The person then decides well if you are okay with this situation then I am okay with it too so let's get it on. To me this the strongest song on this album and I could hear it being released even today and being a hit song. Lyrically and musically this song is her best on this album.

Sexuality is the next song on the album and it is the crescendo that the first three songs were building up to. k.d. said in an interview I watched of her on The Tonight Show that she liked to make music that you could listen to while driving, dancing, eat and having sex. This would be the song that you get undressed to and have your sex to with it playing in the background. At the time I remember this being a radio hit and the video too was in regular rotation on VH-1 and MTV. This was intended to be the biggest hit song on this album. She opens the song with a seductive tone inviting the listener to "come on, come on, come on," and you know where this song is going. There are a few lines in this song that could be perceived as political in the ongoing struggle for same-sex equality and shedding rigid ideas about sex such as, "kiss away the ones who say the lust you feel is wrong, not how bad could it be if you amuse yourself with me, now how bad could it be...sexuality," and "release yourself upon me and free the lines of chastity." These lines aren't as direct as a Madonna song about sex but a more subtle and nuanced song about it.

The next song that follows is Get Some. This song is about going out and getting that love you crave. It encourages the listener to take a more active role in finding their happiness. This song is more upbeat and uptempo than the previous songs on the album. It marches along to a brisk beat and a confident vocal. It isn't the most interesting song lyrically but is something you could listen to while needing some motivation as it at times feels like an anthem.

Acquiesce is next and it ponders the morality of love and sex as if someone is testing the boundaries of a relationship. This is the song for a complicated relationship that a person might find themselves involved in. After we are heavily involved with someone and thinking about the faithfulness of your partner or a self-examination of your own morals and faithfulness this is the territory this song lives in. The song title could be thought of as knowing something isn't morally acceptable but going with the flow and allowing whatever it is to happen anyway and how we live with our decision. Stylistically this dark song is beautifully arranged and her vocals are smooth like velvet.

You are on the sofa leaned back with your feet up and comes This. It has that lazy sound about it that isn't going to challenge you to get up and dance but maybe instead take a long sip of your coffee. This song comes and goes and you might not even notice it as it plays. You could be leaning back on your seat on the train with your eyes closed as you zone out and This relaxes you. It is a soothing song about answering your partner's question about your love and reassuring them that this is love and you are going to give them all of you. As k.d. sings, "believe in this," you feel that sense of security and peace of stability. The overall feeling I get from this song is satisfaction.

World Of Love is a spring day with flowers exploding and vibrant colors popping across the landscape. This isn't one of my favorite songs on this album but it isn't necessarily a bad song either. It borders on romping and prancing and comes across as too happy like an over caffeinated bunny rabbit. This song for me is filler and the one I am most likely to skip.

On the song Infinite And Unforeseen she gives her best vocal performance on the album. This is k.d. lang singing from her heart. This song strikes a melancholy and reflective tone with the strings at the beginning. With the somber sound of this song I can't decide whether the surprises she sings about are happy ones of finding unexpected love or rather the bad surprise of finding your love coming to end. I suppose you could interpret it either way.

A funky bass groove and drums opens up the last song on the album, I Want It All. This song makes a nice end to the journey that this album takes you on through uncertainty, love and sex. The conclusion here is that she wants it all whether it is good or bad that she isn't afraid to take her chances on love and what all comes with it. The album ends with a positive and optimistic outlook.

Ranking the songs from how I enjoy them from most to least I would settle on this order: You're Okay, If I Were You, Maybe, Sexuality, Acquiesce, Infinite And Unforeseen, This, Get Some, I Want It All and World Of Love.

This is a remarkable album with plenty of pop and sophistication from the sultry voice of  k.d. lang. It is an easy album to get into and still enjoy twenty-two years later because it has a timeless sound that you couldn't tell came out all the way back in 1995. Just as she wanted you can do pretty much any activity while listening to this music and still feel relaxed. It is good music for lounging in your pajamas on a Sunday morning or commuting on the train at the end of long day at the office.