Tracy Chapman – Our Bright Future (2008)
“My Bright Future” is, at the time of writing, the most recent album that Tracy Chapman has released. I bought it a couple of years ago for a bargain price, played a couple of times and then it remained filed away until now. Unfortunately, it’s one that I really haven’t been able to thoroughly love, even though I have now played it plenty of times over the past couple of weeks, in an attempt to gain a full understanding and familiarity of the material. There is no denying the craft of the songs, or that it is a lovely piece of work to listen to, but it terms of setting my heart or emotions on fire like her début album did, for example, it does fall short. It’s a piece of work which, in its entirety, I can certainly appreciate but it will never be one of my favourites and certainly one which I’m having difficulty mustering any real enthusiasm for.
The album opens with a couple of beautiful tracks, “Sing For You” and “I Did It All”. The former has a gentle sing-along quality, the latter sounds like something that wouldn’t be out of place at a jazz club and yet is a far more lyrically biting song than the music or melody would have you believe. Although “Save Us All” is pleasant enough, the subject matter is too specifically religious for my taste and “Our Bright Future” is a musically soothing experience with some very bleak lyrics: “Led on led on/to take the path/where our bright future/is in our past”. I would then struggle to write, at any length, about any other songs as they have a very similar feel to each other. My head nods gently and foot taps along appreciatively to the tracks but they really do lack an strong individual character. “A Theory” and “Conditional” are probably my other picks of the album along with the opening pair, but do they compare favourably with anything from Chapman’s earlier work? Sadly not.
In a way, this is the kind of album that you could have on while you were working and it would provide a very mellow, soothing kind of atmosphere, but I’ve never been of the opinion that the very best albums should be described as perfect for background music. It’s certainly not a bad album, far from it, merely one that I listen to with near-indifference, and where it is difficult, even after several listens, to fully remember each individual song, yet, when it is over, I have the feeling that I’ve just enjoyed a rather nice but underwhelming album. Perhaps if you were a huge Tracy Chapman fan and you didn’t buy many albums then you would take the time to listen to this time and time again and may be able to get more out of this album than I have, but this isn’t an album that I will find myself reaching for very often, if at all.