Album Review: We're All Somebody from Somewhere by Steven Tyler
Average, Based on 6 Critics
AllMusic - 60 Based on rating 6/10
Like Mick Jagger before him, Steven Tyler itched to launch a solo career, but where Mick struck while the iron was relatively hot -- 20 years after "Satisfaction," true, yet the Rolling Stones still packed arenas -- the Aerosmith singer took the better part of a decade to figure out what he wanted to do on his own. Stumbling through a starring gig on American Idol and an accompanying flop single that led to an awkward 2012 reunion with Aerosmith, Tyler finally resurfaced as a country singer -- a surprise, because the closest he ever came to country was the Desmond Child co-write "What It Takes," a power ballad that provides a good touchstone for 2016's We're All Somebody from Somewhere. Nominally a country album, We're All Somebody from Somewhere doesn't belong to any country: laden with power ballads and pulsating polished rockers, it's commercial music for nonexistent formats.
It would be easy to dismiss Steven Tyler's first solo album as a frivolous exercise by a past-his-prime, attention-seeking celebrity. But, it turns out, We're All Somebody from Somewhere isn't only sporadically enjoyable, but also worthy of serious appraisal. Indeed, intentionally or not, much of the album serves as a fascinating case study on how, these days, the term “country music” is more of a marketing label than a genre, as Tyler and his collaborators manage to distill the alleged death of arena rock and its rebirth as modern-day pop country into a 55-minute runtime.
Don't expect the wild-and-loose feel of country-styled Aerosmith hits like "What It Takes" or "Crazy" from Steven Tyler's first Nashville album. Recently relocated to Music City, the singer apparently wants to fit in among his new neighbors, squishing his oversize personality into adequate mid-tempo numbers and remaking himself into an earnest romantic balladeer. There's a rootsy reworking of "Janie's Got a Gun," and his sleazy side pokes through when he sings about "free-fallin' into your yum-yum" on "Red, White & You." But too often Tyler keeps his swagger in check when he could be kicking up some down-home dust.
Steven Tyler’s solo debut, recorded in Nashville and leaning heavily on radio-friendly country music, is refreshingly distinct from the stadium hard rock he’s been making for almost half a century as Aerosmith’s frontman. It starts very promisingly: the self-doubt expressed on the stripped-back opener My Own Worst Enemy is genuinely affecting, while Love Is Your Name boasts an irrepressibly upbeat chorus. I Make My Own Sunshine, meanwhile, might resemble a backwoods take on Catatonia’s Road Rage, yet it still possesses a certain charm.
On paper, the prospect of a country-music album from Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler seems worrisome. A ploy for radio? A pandering gesture toward the only brick-and-mortar establishments that still move units — say, Walmart? Best not to jump to conclusions about “We’re All Somebody From Somewhere,” released July 15 on Big Machine. When Tyler, 68, explains Nashville’s appeal in a press release about the LP, you can’t just dismiss his argument.