Good enough to remind us how bland and boring many other singer-songwriters are.
Our Bright Future, Tracy Chapman
It has been 20 years since Tracy Chapman's eponymous first album was released, and the three singles that it spawned (Fast Car, Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution, Baby Can I Hold You Tonight) could still be used as a primer on all of her work since; vivid narratives, social commentary, and dead-on observations about flawed relationships, tied up in beautiful tunes and Chapman's extraordinary voice. But 20 years is a long time to be doing pretty much the same thing, and even such a winning formula as hers can begin to sound repetitive. There's certainly a bit of this on Our Bright Future, but there's also enough good to remind us how bland and boring many other singer-songwriters are. The first single, Sing For You, is a bittersweet album opener, and Thinking of You, Conditional and The First Person on Earth also stand out. But by far the best moment is I Did It All, a playful, cabaret-style track that's a long way from anything on previous albums, both musically and lyrically. "I'll tell it all," she sings, "When my little black book is published/When they come to interview me/For my made-for-TV movie." It's a shiny little gem, almost guaranteed to raise a smile, and, even better, it's proof that after two decades she still has some surprises in store.