TEEN QUEEN BRINGS BACK THE 80s WITH DEBUT

Lindsay Lohan

Speak

(Casablanca Records)

Remember Molly Ringwald? Well, Lindsay Lohan is 2004’s version. Her character in Mean Girls isn’t too far off Ringwald’s characters in Pretty in Pink or The Breakfast Club. Like Ringwald, she plays outsiders desperate for social acceptance, with a perfect combination of sincerity and comedic timing. A redheaded ingénue who won our hearts in teen flicks Freaky Friday and Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, Lohan is now searching for acceptance in the music world with the release of her debut album, Speak.

Lohan’s album lands in the pile of similar efforts from Hilary Duff, Ashlee Simpson, Avril Lavigne, Kelly Clarkson and Skye Sweetnam. All these girls are commercially successful (Ashlee Simpson was just named Billboard’s debut artist of the year) but is there really room for one more? So far, so good for Lohan.

Lohan’s first single, “Rumors,” with help from a racy video, is doing well on MuchMusic and MTV. The song, last on Speak, is listed as a bonus track. That might be because “Rumors” doesn’t sound like the rest of the album. If you haven’t yet heard the song (or seen the video), “Rumors” is a track you can dance to and has Lohan “rapping” throughout (think Britney Spears’s “Me Against the Music”).

But when you put on Lohan’s album, the first track (aptly titled “First”) gives you a different vibe with its first guitar lick. Having chosen rock over a hip-hop sound, here’s to hoping that Lohan won’t be showing off her mediocre dance moves in any future videos.

“First” has Lohan pouting and stamping around like the spoiled teenager she is. She “wants to come first” and “doesn’t wanna be like every other girl.” Despite the weak and childish lyrics, “First” is strong, catchy and kick-ass; perfect for tweens.

Lohan’s twist on the tired pop-rock sound is to fill it out with synthesizers. “Nobody ‘Til You” sounds like an Ashlee Simpson song but from 1987. Staying true to her Ringwald legacy, the best tracks on Speak are infused with 80s beats. They dare you to do that Ringwald kicking dance from The Breakfast Club.

With things going so well two tracks in, the album has nowhere to go but down. And it does with “Symptoms of You.” A sappy, piano-heavy ditty showcases the simplest lyrics this side of the “Hokey Pokey” (“I’m not ill / I don’t need to take a pill”). In an attempt to (presumably) sound like Avril Lavigne, Lohan fails. With a limited range, her voice simply can’t carry this kind of song like Lavigne’s can.

But Lohan gets back in the game with the album’s title track, “Speak,” an anthemic synthed-out rock song. It just barely resists overproduction but with Lohan’s husky voice and a great backing vocalist, you can barely resist it.

Slated to be the next single, “Over” is the most generic sounding song on Speak. “Over” has Lohan whining over a breakup. There’s nothing actually wrong with this song except the fact that you’ve heard it a million times before.

Lohan shines on “Something I Never Had.” Left alone, her natural voice is expressive and interesting in this angsty rock ballad of unrequited love. The song nearly reaches adult-contemporary cheese levels but puts to rest the idea that Lohan can’t sing.

Back to the heavily produced synth/rock sound with “Anything But Me.” It’s a standout track: a fun dance song with perhaps the most personal lyrics on the entire album. “Disconnected” follows strong after (although Speak’s “Disconnected” is not that dissimilar from Kelly Osbourne’s “Disconnected” on her debut album, Shut Up).

“To Know Your Name” is the strongest on the album, buried near the end of it. Deep strong bass dominates this sexy song with Lohan simultaneously cooing and rocking out. The song is Lohan’s bid for privacy from the paparazzi so she can snuggle with her boyfriend (now ex, Wilmer Valderrama). Embarrassingly, the sound of camera shutters is added to really push home the ‘invasion of privacy’ point. We get it; the tweens get it. No need to lay it on so thick.

The last two tracks, “Very Last Moment in Time” and “Magnet,” are solid pop-rock songs, rounding out the album.

Speak is a strong debut for an 18-year-old actress-turned-popstar. Lohan proves she has singing chops and almost defines a sound of her own. Like any good pop album, the more you listen to Speak, the more you’ll like it.

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