Every year, there's an album that comes out of nowhere and jumps at you as something you just have to hear, that is impossible to turn away from. It's what my pal Goldy calls the "car crash effect." You just have to see how it's going to happen. Sometimes it's a full-on meltdown, a band breaking down in the midst of making a great album, executing a mid-career shift, or, when great, captures a moment. The best exacmple I can think of this is Lyle Lovett's "The Road to Ensanada." That album, made just after the breakup with Julia Roberts, makes an amazing pair with the album "I Love Everybody" that followed his marriage. No two albums could be more opposed, yet the bitter, seething rage contained under Lovett's songs is among his most brilliant work. Scott Long correctly picked last years with William Shatner's seriously brilliant "Has Been."
We have this year's car crash album.
Lindsay Lohan doesn't look like she's in trouble on the cover. She's somewhere between the Monroe-esque ingenue and the scarily skinny coke-whore look here, her tattoo of "La Bella Vita" in clear view. The set list looks dangerous -- covers of Stevie Nicks and Cheap Trick are traps that could backfire (and "I Want You To Want Me" is, at best campy.) The album, as a whole, is typical teen-pop, vaguely worded, breathily sung/screamed, and overproduced to the nth degree.
Yet the first song may be the best song of the year. Somehow, I feel confident saying that. "Confessions Of A Broken Heart (Father To Daughter)" is a heartfelt public meltdown that sounds as if it was done in one take, the band slowly backing away as Lohan literally (and perhaps calculatingly) sobs at the end. It's that hint of commercial cynicism that holds you, but the song, if taken purely at face value, stands as a recorded breakdown. There's an immediacy to the song, to the generic building guitars that fade farther and farther into the background. I can't imagine seeing this live. (Then again, I can't imagine being at a Lindsay Lohan show, but that's a different thing altogether.)
In a world where singles are manufactured and Lohan is one of the most manufactured celebrities imaginable, it seems to have come full circle. For a moment in what is an unmemorable career for those not seduced by the empty promise of teenage pulchritude, Lohan tears her heart out and let's us watch it beat, raw and open, for three minutes. Let's see Ashlee Simpson do that.