Though ultra-clean good-girl pop music may have had its heyday in the 90s, one local songstress is still carrying that G-rated torch. Living up to its title, Sarah Oberland’s debut disc addresses familiar pop song topics such as needing a boy, loving a boy, needing space from a boy, breaking up with a boy, and getting over a boy, and following a dream. Although the album is reminiscent of music by Mandy Moore and Jessica Simpson, its awkward production and lack of memorable tunes will disappoint even those listeners who still want “Candy.”
A Girl Needs Space features 13 songs co-written by Oberland (a Hastings native) and produced by Ben Obi. According to the press release that accompanied the album in its glistening golden padded envelope, Oberland was tired of being a “perfect little Daddy’s girl.” A Girl Needs Space, we learn, was born from “several gut wrenching sessions with a counselor and transforming her most intimate journal entries into her truth.”
The focus of the album is on Oberland’s powerful voice, which swoons through forgettable choruses. It’s just as well that Oberland’s voice is front and center, since the backing tracks are generic and undistinguished—from the competition, and from one another. The contrast between Oberland’s strong voice and the bland musical background is especially apparent in the album’s eponymous opener, which sounds like an American Idol audition tape recorded at a karaoke bar.
Oberland’s lyrics aren’t just safe, they’re hypoallergenic. “You said you’d never leave me. You said you’d never lie. You said, you said, you said…” Is she a jilted lover, or a stenographer?
As a producer Obi is not entirely unadventurous, but his experiments should have been saved for Oberland’s MySpace profile. If the melodramatic whispering repeated after every phrase in “Leaving the Ordinary Behind” doesn’t make you nostalgic for “the ordinary,” nothing will.