The buzz ahead of Fearless Love, Melissa Etheridge’s tenth studio album, was that the record would be Etheridge’s hardest-rocking album yet, a return to her rock and roll roots, and an homage of sorts to ‘70s rock heroes like Led Zeppelin and the Who. The album’s booklet photos feature Etheridge in full rock-babe poses, bashing out power chords on her guitar and throwing her hair—grown back to full metal-god glory—over her face. A balls-out (so to speak) rock record at this stage of Etheridge’s career is an intriguing move.
Somewhere along the way, Melissa Etheridge shook off her Midwestern roots and decided that she was an artist with a capital A, turning out nothing but somnolent somber songs. Sobriety made perfect sense when Etheridge was coming out of the closet or surviving cancer, but when it's applied to a record that's merely a collection of songs, as it is on 2010's Fearless Love, the results are stultifying. Etheridge doesn't avoid big themes here -- she strikes back at Carrie Prejean's anti-gay marriage stance on "Miss California" and supports Obama on "We Are the Ones," both playing like delayed hangovers, their tardiness accentuating the slightness of Fearless Love.
MELISSA ETHERIDGE “Fearless Love” (Island). Every week on “American Idol” this season, the young roots singer Crystal Bowersox puts on a bravado vocal display, and every week she leaves unanswered the question of how exactly her sound might matter outside the confines of the competition. .