Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Joni Mitchell has long been a monument to her own ego--a great talent grown so overimpressed with herself that she couldn't tell the difference between her golden history and her leaden present. So maybe the idea of her album of standards makes you cringe--especially since she named it Both Sides Now (Reprise), after a great song she wrote herself. But for once her infatuation with her own voice serves her well. Backed by a full orchestra with cameos by Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Mark Isham, her deep, nicotine-cured contralto sounds positively lustrous on pop classics sequenced to delineate (ta-da) "the arc of a modern romantic relationship." She swings, she phrases, she bends, she ornaments, beating the pants off similar efforts by Linda Ronstadt and Sinead O'Connor, if not Willie Nelson. And if she believes Both Sides Now and A Case of You hold up next to You've Changed and Stormy Weather, well, she's right.

With all the action it had to happen--adolescents who not just write songs (like Grammy-winning Christina Aguilera, or 'N Sync's JC Chasez), but have the knack. The winners are Norwegian lasses Marion Raven and Marit Larsen of M2M. It's not clear whether they'll storm the U.S. marketplace. But if you want a view of not quite sexualized females that doesn't pander to sexualized males, try the impossibly vulnerable Don't Say You Love Me and Girl of Your Dreams on Shades of Purple (Atlantic).

With The Rockafeller Skank and then Praise You everywhere including Kodak and Nike ads, English DJ Fatboy Slim is getting his props. But his most irresistible album isn't "his own" music--it's the mix tape On the Floor at the Boutique (Astralwerks), which climaxes with Rockafeller Skank from a start provided by the Incredible Bongo Band and Fred Wesley's Horny Horns.

Playboy, Apr. 2000

Mar. 2000 May 2000