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Rick Astley – Free

December 18, 2009 Leave a comment

RCA Records, 1991

Four years after releasing the song that, you know, gets stuck in your head whenever you stumble upon it, Rick Astley put out a record that mades him look truly smooth. No longer could he just use his voice to woo over countless women (and closet soft rock dudes), Astley knew that the hair had to change and he needed to lock us into his tempting eyes.  The hand gesture clearly means he’s calling us to say ‘hello, it’s Rick again’ and oh dayum, here comes the heart melting once more.  This is the melodramatic storyline that I came up with in my head when I found this early 90’s release tragically ignored amidst other 90’s castoffs.  I felt I ran into an old, oddly dressed friend that recently had a makeover, so I opted to see what my man Astley was all about in those days.  Plus, it’s not like I could resist those eyes.

So what exactly did I expect when I casually inserted this into my cd player while sipping a martini in a dimly lit room?  I expected at least a little pep, or even a tune that might have shown a bit of a pulse.  But what I got, and perhaps what I deserved, was a looooot of sleepy soft pop music that tried a little too hard to make me cry.  The first sign was the jaw dropping opening song of “In the Name of Love” which just reeked of heavy-handed mushiness.  I even got a double-dose of the soft stuff, for Astley was definitely channeling Michael MacDonald when he was singing.  Just awful, awful.  Then the big hit from the time “Cry For Help” puffed out and I was starting to wobble on sanity, because I realized that Astley was asking questions that I was not prepared for.  For instance, “Why can’t we ever break down and cry?” is a perfectly plausible inquiry to have, but there’s no real answer to that and I’m used to giving answers.  Is it because we are too embarrassed with the public display of emotion, or is it because people are too British over there, or is it because I’ve built up a wall around me and am not letting anyone in?  Oh Astley, you’ve got me in a corner, man!  I had to escape to the next song for balance …

Garrrgh!  It’s a self-confidence inducer entitled “Move Right Out” that made me gag.  Quick, to the ‘rocking’ “Be With You” and its crisp horns that disappear immediately once Astley starts crooning, only to return during a half-hearted upbeat chorus.  As I crawl to the next track of “Really Got a Problem” I encounter a doo-wopping Rick Astley and OH IT’S JUST TOO MUCH!  I … I turn off the cd player and take off the sunglasses I’ve been wearing.  (sob)

Rick Astley, do your pasty magic:

This record is primarily a Bust because I wanted to hear that big, dance single.  I didn’t hear it, so I was let down by a Rick Astley record.  It was clear that Astley had chosen to spend his time crafting the slower, sensual songs for soft rock radio and skip the obvious success that the goofy love songs brought him.  Big mistake, Astley.  He decided to give up the music business for nearly a decade not long after this record was released, only to make a return early on in the next decade because some small pocket of people demanded more Astley sappiness.  Does anyone truly care about that, though?  Nah.  One is likely more interested in his brief, unfortunate foray into the hip hop music scene in Birmingham.  MC Astley indeed.

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