Tracy Chapman: The Weary And The Innocent

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Thursday's Pick

  • Song: "Sing for You"
  • Artist: Tracy Chapman
  • CD: Our Bright Future
  • Genre: Folk-Pop
Tracy Chapman 300

Tracy Chapman still mixes low-key message songs with the relentlessly pleasant likes of "Sing for You." courtesy of Tracy Chapman hide caption

toggle caption courtesy of Tracy Chapman

Tracy Chapman has always fit uneasily into the pop-music marketplace. Now 20 years removed from her self-titled debut — and her simultaneous emergence as a critically adored Artist of Consequence — she's produced hits intermittently (1995's "Give Me One Reason"), yet never fit comfortably into a single genre. After her left-field debut hit "Fast Car" cast her as a socially conscious chronicler of underdogs' yearnings, she's toggled between earnest folk and easy-going blues-pop, while remaining somewhat remote as a personality.

Now on her eighth studio album, Chapman seems to have landed on some comfortable middle ground: Our Bright Future mixes low-key message songs with the relentlessly pleasant likes of "Sing for You." A slice of soothing nostalgia, complete with a "doo-doo-doo" chorus, the latter track exudes a sort of weary innocence, as Chapman ruminates fondly on "a time when I used to sing for you."

As ingratiatingly simple as "Sing for You" is, her intentions remain surprisingly mysterious throughout: Chapman could be a mother pining for the simplicity of raising a young child, a lover whose relationship used to be less complicated, or even, to get psychoanalytical about it, a pop singer who faced less pressure when she performed in coffeehouses. Regardless of its message, it's a lovely return for a singer whose calmly smoky voice remains welcome in any era.

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This story originally ran on Oct. 16, 2008.

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