Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Vanessa S.-Ride With Me (2003)


From 'idolizing' one certain American reality music show contestant to 'idolizing' another former reality music show hopeful across the Atlantic on the European continent—my current caravan of television music talents pulls up in Germany to pick up a new passenger: Vanessa Struhler, better known by her simplified stage name, Vanessa S., who competed in the premiere season of her country's version of "Pop Idol". Without further ado, I invite you now to ride along with me as I showcase all of the highlights that make Vanessa's debut album, "Ride With Me", the joyride that it is. The party gets started—literally!—on the opening jam, "Fiesta", because it feels like there's a party going on for real with the killer beats tantalizing every one of your music senses! Of course, considering I tend to get so caught up in the eye-popping production, much of the lyrics kinda got lost the first time I heard this one, but there was no mistaking that I heard a good deal of Spanish being splashed around. Chicos and chicas—good enough for me, and so was Vanessa, who wastes no time in showing off that she can be as hip as the rest of the crowd. "Fiesta"—that's the one jam that I could ride along with all night long, but then there's so many others that I wouldn't mind bumpin' with for a good while. "Too Bad" is just too good ; the tight r&b bounce of the beat, plus the swirly electronic loops and the chiming of the church bells, make it an instant attraction before Vanessa's sass delivered in the break-up lyrics (I love the pounding beat as she sings 'say goodbye, say goodbye' sweep in and the main hook slams down) sweep in to add another dimension of appeal for you listening pleasure. 90's house music lovers will be pleased when they hear the familiar SOUL II SOUL hit, "Back To Life", given the Vanessa S. contemporary r&b treatment. The unmistakable, memorable lyrics of 'however do you want me, however do you need me' are all there and performed just like the original. "I Ain't No Saint" is for the beat-bumpers, too—in fact, it's got one of the best hooks on this whole album!—as is another personal favorite of mine, "Dirty Calypso" (and there really is a calypso beat here, though a subtle one beneath the predominant r&b/hip-hop bounce), where she's gettin' down and dirty at that "Fiesta" again, as the sizzling sexy lyrics say, and "Dance 4 Me", where it's her man's turn this time to get down and dirty for her. "Girl Next Door" is also a great jam, though it has a way of sneaking up on you and becoming addictingly catchy after starting off tamely enough with some heavy synthesizing to the point where it almost has an 80's Freestyle arrangement about it. It's one of several cuts on this album where Vanessa invites a guest MC to lay down the rap vocals, further adding to the hip-hop flavor. Yet beneath all of the hard beats and the sweet sass is quite the angelic beauty, which rises up first on the delightfully dreamy piece, "Shining" ('this is how you make me feel deep down inside': I like that final line from the chorus; some of the sweetest words of romantic tribute one can say), then on the touching "One Single Tear", which—had it not been for the bonus track, "Ride Or Die", that does thematically conclude the 'ride with me' theme in appropriate fashion—would have served as a suitable ending, given the majestic performance that it blossoms into:

1. Fiesta [feat. Ferris MC]
2. I Ain't No Saint
3. Ride With Me (I Know You) [feat. GERM]
4. Too Bad
5. Back To Life
6. Ey Ey Ey [feat. Said]
7. Shining
8. Dirty Calypso
9. Shine Through The Night [feat. Trooper Da Don]
10. Dance 4 Me
11. What I'm Gonna Do
12. Girl Next Door [feat. Trooper Da Don]
13. One Single Tear
14. Ride Or Die [feat. Trooper Da Don]

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