Whenever the music industry and its collective media minions start aligning months in advance to promote the virtues of a heretofore-unknown commodity, it's red flag time. Lennon Murphy, a 19-year-old Tennessee songstress, is just such a commodity. With MTV's Kurt Loder firmly in tow to "chronicle her journey," massive commercial success is pre-ordained from the factory.
We're talking Alanis Morrissette-type success. Murphy's upcoming debut 5:30 Saturday Morning is a supremely slick set of atmospheric rockers with a richness and contemporary complexity extending far beyond her years. It's obvious the team surrounding Murphy is first-class.
Before getting too bogged down in cynicism, Murphy does have credentials. A performer since age 8, she's dealt with an absentee father and the recent death of her mother -- leaving her to raise her younger sister while trying to graduate high school.
Her musical presence contains inter-woven fragments of Fiona Apple's abused sexuality, Tori Amos' twisted emotional strength and fragility and Alanis Morrisette's anger. It heady mix backed by equal parts piano ballads, Sabbath-tinged rockers and phasing-enhanced vocal melody. It's no wonder the industry is excited. The underlying sense of a forced glue-job raises questions of whether this was a shotgun musical wedding created to fit her essence or an elopement of pure feeling. It's not raw in the least, so the answer probably lies somewhere in between.
There's no doubt Murphy is a talented singer and performer with looks that kill. This disc is eminently listenable and filled with enough memorable choruses to spawn multiple hits. Insert your own questions about Murphy, but the answer to them all probably lies in her own words: "I'm tired of everyone trying to make me what they want me to be."
Lennon Murphey plays the DeKalb Atlanta Center Sun., July 22.
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