In the eleventh hour of getting her Jive Records debut ready for public consumption, Crystal Bowersox stopped by VH1's offices Thursday morning (November 4) for a brief acoustic set. Apparently the gig was supposed to be a conference room performance just for executives, but the VH1 higher-ups believe so strongly in Crystal's potential that they wanted to share her casual mini-concert with their viewers. Expect to see the full four-song set streaming on VH1.com in the coming weeks.
The "American Idol" runner-up kicked things off by premiering "Hold On," the first official single from her album. Curiously enough, the song wasn't written by Bowersox, who has notoriously insisted she will have her hand in every album track. Instead, Nickelback's Chad Kroeger penned it with former "Idol"
headache judge Kara DioGuardi.
But fear not, music fans with good taste. If those two names have you running for the hills, take a breather. "Hold On" is a devastating breakup ballad that's both radio friendly and Bowersoxy. One only hopes the album mix stays true to Crystal's acoustic troubadour sensibilities, because the track could very well sound like a Nickelback song if it gets overproduced with generic fuzzy guitars and schmaltzy strings.
I was especially encouraged by one of Crystal's originals, "Ridin' With the Radio." The song is a roots-rockin' toe-tapper with a refrain that gets in your head and refuses to leave. "If you wanna sing a song, just sing it/ We're ridin' with the radio/ Wanna bring a friend? Just bring 'em/ We can sing it in stereo." Think Sheryl Crow's mega-hit "All I Wanna Do" but with a charming Mamasox twist. Crystal wants to have some fun, alright, but the party's in her car, and the FM station blows. (The first chorus even finds her declaring, "I ain't writin' for the radio.") So screw it. She'll sing what she wants to sing and you and your friends are welcome to come sing along. But let's not go crazy, OK? Only three of you can fit in the back seat. And she just vacuumed in here, so bang the mud off your shoes first, dude. Then, just when you think the song has revealed its hand, it wallops you with a killer half-tempo soulful breakdown that is equally irresistible.
Bowersox rounded out the set with a scorching cover of "Jolene" by Ray LaMontagne, one of Crystal's fave artists. But it was the album's title track, "Farmer’s Daughter," that sent massive shivers down my spine. "Halfway to crazy, not far from sane/ F---in' sick and tired of all your games/ All I wanted was for you to take care of me," Bowersox hissed about her mother. (Since writing it, Crystal said she has repaired her damaged relationship with "mommy dear.")
Fun side note: Mamasox introduced the song — which tackles alcoholism and child abuse — by joking that it was her first single. "No wait, that's 'Hold On,' right Joe?" she quipped to Jive bigwig Joe Riccitelli, seen grinning through his teeth on the sidelines.
"Hold On" jokes aside, Riccitelli practically exploded with pride when introducing his recent acquisition. He read a personal e-mail from MTV Chairman and CEO Judy McGrath, who raved about Crystal's recent performance at a "Girl Up" charity event, comparing Bowersox's stage presence and talent to artists as varied as Taylor Swift and Eminem. Whoa!
We'll have to wait until December 14 to hear Farmer's Daughter in its finished state, but from the songs I've heard, Bowersox fans have a lot to look forward to.
Are you stoked for Crystal's major label debut? Are you surprised that her single wasn't written by her? Sound off in the comments below. And for more "Idol" and pop culture goodies, follow me on Twitter @jambajim!