I don’t want to dub Nick Lachey’s second solo album, What’s Left of Me, with the distinction of being so bad, it’s good.
Because it is bad. In so many innumerable ways.
I know I’ve been entertained by the album, but to call it "good" because of its badness? That’s a line I can’t cross.
But the badness of What’s Left of Me is an amazing feat, something at the very least to be appreciated.
The opening title track serves as the mould for the rest of the album. Lachey has dumped the feel-good dance beats of his 98 Degrees days for an earnest rock sound worthy of Michelle Branch.
And when I say mould, I mean exactly that — every track thereafter sounds exactly the same.
There are big washes of acoustic guitar to convey sensitivity. There are big gestures of power chords to convey masculinity.
The tempo is the same constant pace — slow enough to feel like a ballad but fast enough to signify Big Drama.
And the strings — of course, the strings are needed to ram home the poignancy of the lyrics.
Oh yes, the lyrics. All the songs on What’s Left of Me can be summed up in a few sentences: My heart is breaking. I’m moving on. I still feel for you.
And Lachey, bless his pop star heart, sings every word with Real. Feeling. The overt calculation behind this album — yes, I get it, post-divorce creative spurt, great for angst — would normally undercut any sincerity these lyrics may genuinely convey. But the way the other facets of this album have been test-marketed to death, it actually helps.
The first time I listened to this album, I couldn’t believe I was hearing the same song done over and over again 13 times in a row. Did Lachey and his producers not realize it? The unconsciousness of that blaring genericism fascinated me. What possessed everyone involved with this album to take it seriously? Did it have more to say than what I was perceiving?
No, it didn’t have more to say. It has only one thing to say. And if credit is due for anything, it’s definitely for persistence.
All the ways this album pushed every button I dislike about radio pop somehow convinced me to (oh dear) like it.
Hell, I don’t even mind the shittily compressed sound of the album, the exact thing against which Bob Dylan ranted (although he didn’t actually name mastering compression as his bogeyman.)
I can only speak for myself and say I enjoyed Lachey’s attempt to pour his heart out. What’s Left of Me does nothing to elevate pop, and perhaps it represents everything bland with mainstream music.
It’s a generic work that unconsciously revels in its middle-of-the-road ambition, but it’s entertaining in its efforts.