The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Chapman’s latest album supports her strong credentials

Tae Andrews | Friday, September 16, 2005

While she may possess more than a passing resemblance to the pre-hiatus Ricky Williams, Tracy Chapman has proven herself to be a much more reliable veteran in her respective industry. After a three-year interval since the release of her last album, “Let It Rain,” the dreadlocked diva continues to impress with her modest substance.

Simply put, Tracy Chapman makes good music. Listening to this album is a welcome relief from the crappy pop songs that have accumulated over the past few years. Her unique style is what makes her music so powerful – her piercingly clear voice somehow manages to simultaneously haunt and soothe the listener. Chapman is the epitome of elegance in simplicity – her tracks consist mainly of her pure, melancholic voice at its soulful finest with some tasteful guitar accompaniment.

Prior to listening to the album, the listener could offer the same challenge to Chapman that she did on a previous hit single. Give me one reason to stay here, Tracy, and I’ll turn right back around. On “Where You Live,” Tracy Chapman gives the listener 11 quality reasons to stay, providing more than sufficient rationale to stick around.

The poignant genius behind “Where You Live” starts off strong with “Change,” a social self-reflection that manages to make its point without holier-than-thou condescension.

One of Tracy Chapman’s best qualities is that she approaches the subject of social commentary with the appropriate gravity of the situation. Unlike rappers who glorify the violence and misogyny of the rough neighborhoods where they grew up, Chapman maintains a somber tone as she sings about the abuses of women on “3,000 Miles.” She also displays her considerable poetic talent with such lyrics as, “Good girls walk fast/ In groups of three/ Fast girls walk slow/ On side streets/ Sometimes girls who walk alone/ Aren’t found for days or weeks.”

Despite her understated style, Chapman isn’t afraid to wax political. It would be an error to mistake her soothing tone for passive substance, as she sings with a voice that is both powerful and moving. “America,” a compelling song about minority abuse throughout American history, is a profound soapbox sermon on the history of racial injustice in this country and on the continued need for change. Her powerful words stand by themselves: “The ghost of Columbus haunts this world/ ‘Cause you’re still conquering America/ The meek won’t survive/ Or inherit the earth/ ‘Cause you’re still conquering America.”

Songs such as “Talk To You” and “Love’s Proof” are tragic love ballads provide ideal listening fodder for the recently broken-up or heartbroken among us.

In fact, if one critical comment were to be made about the entire album, it would be to tell Tracy to lighten up a little, and maybe try to create an upbeat song or two. However, the overall quality and consistent excellence of “Where You Live” proves that Tracy is still the proverbial Chap-Man.