Kendall Payne is performing on the “B” stage for this year’s Lilith Fair. Undoubtedly, Payne will never make the jump from sideshow to superstar. She has a unique name – a memorable one – but that’s where it ends.
She lacks the passionate lyrics and voice of Sarah McLachlan. She doesn’t have the sultry, sexy qualities of Fiona Apple. She doesn’t have the appealing twang of the Dixie Chicks. Her music doesn’t embody one standout element that would move her to the main stage.
The opening track of her latest album, Jordan’s Sister (Capitol), should provide Payne with a little fame. “Closer to Myself” might even make her a one-hit wonder. The strong beat automatically catches your attention, and Payne sings with an edge. She also deserves credit for using the word “complacency” in the song.
However, as soon as the second track begins, the album begins its decent into defunctness. “Supermodels” only can be described as annoying. The lyrics are bland, the beat grating. The following track, “Wonderland” slows to a stifling pace. Payne’s voice is delicate and sweet, but nothing leaps from the song to save you from falling asleep.
“Honest” is another lullaby-esque song. It showcases the beauty of Payne’s soprano voice, but the lyrics are overly simplistic. Words such as “If you’ll take the first step, and I’ll follow you through” are not enough to move the listener.
“It’s Not the Time” enlivens the album, but by the seventh track you realize that the fast-paced songs have the same basic beat. Different lyrics, different instruments, same underlying rhythm.
If they are good and knowledgeable about the world of music, singers and bands will reward listeners with an amazing song toward the end of the album, some nugget of musical genius that says thanks for listening. Payne does not reward listeners. The final two tracks embrace the slow sounds of earlier works. There’s nothing new or bewildering that would make you play the entire album.
Although Payne clearly has vocal talent, her music doesn’t contain that one essential element that will catapult her to success. Most likely, her music will be the background music to a “Dawson’s Creek” or “Felicity” episode and be featured on the show’s next soundtrack. And that is where Payne’s music belongs – on a soundtrack where you hear her once, appreciate her voice and move on.