The Spirit Room, Michelle Branch
Turn on your radio, and chances are that you'll hear one of those generic pop groups singing another generic pop song, and it suspiciously sounds like another song you've heard, which could or could not be theirs (like you could tell). Or worse yet, another Ja Rule and Jennifer Lopez collaboration (blech, enough is enough, you two might as well form a group). That's why it's so refreshing to hear about an artist who writes and composes his/her own music, music with lyrics that speak from the heart. Enter Michelle Branch, an energetic, bright-eyed Arizona native whose aspirations of being a singer led to a deal with Maverick Records (Madonna's label) and her first main stream CD, The Spirit Room. She is one of many young, talented female singers/songwriters that burst onto the scene in the past year, joining the ranks of Alicia Keys, Nelly Furtado, and more recently, Vanessa Carlton. Think of Branch as a cross between the pop likeability of Britney Spears and the stark rawness of Alanis Morissette. Unlike Spears, though, Michelle Branch wrote or co-wrote and composed all the songs on her CD, which are mostly guitar-based.
THE SPIRIT ROOM
YOU WANTED TO KNOW
The love of music began at an early age. By eight, Michelle was taking voice lessons at the University of Arizona, and at fourteen, received her first guitar. She immediately started writing songs, and was soon performing at local venues. While attending Red Rock High School, she met her best friend, Jenifer Hagio, and along with her younger sister on drums, the trio formed a group. At fifteen, Michelle left high school to be home-schooled. Her big break came when a rock manager from L.A. offered to manage her, and he sent a tape to Danny Shick, who signed her to Maverick in January 1999. In April of the following year, Michelle recorded an independent album, The Broken Bracelet. At the ripe age of seventeen, she stepped into the recording studio again, and The Spirit Room was born.
Now, at eighteen, Michelle is set to take the world by storm. She is currently touring in Japan, where her album is certified gold. It is also certified gold in the U.S. You might have heard her first single, "Everywhere," which played during commercials of the little-seen movie Kate & Leopold. Or, if you're a "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fan, Branch performed another of her tracks, "Goodbye to You," during an episode this season. In the upcoming Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, her song, You Set Me Free, plays in the trailer. Currently, her latest single, "All You Wanted" (and coincidentally her favourite song on the CD) can be caught on MuchMusic and MTV. She was also named one of Teen People's Up and Coming Stars.
I highly recommend checking out her CD. Branch is very talented and introspective, and it shows through her music.
Lyrics are interwoven with bouncy guitar riffs, or slowed down, as in Goodbye to You, with catchy hooks and melodic choruses. (In addition to the aforementioned track, Everywhere, All You Wanted, and Something to Sleep To are my favourite tracks - I can listen to them all day). One of the big appeals of Branch's songs is their ambiguity. Although most are about love, they are highly open to interpretation. For instance, sample lyrics from "All You Wanted": "If you want to / I can save you / I can take you away from here / So lonely inside / So busy out there / And all you wanted was somebody who cares." There are some lemons in The Spirit Room, but overall, it's a gem. ¤ C.Ho.
THE SPIRIT ROOM: (out of 5)