x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Our Bright Future, Tracy Chapman

Good enough to remind us how bland and boring many other singer-songwriters are.

A shiny little gem... <i>Our Bright Future</i>.
A shiny little gem... Our Bright Future.

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.