MGF Reviews Taylor Dayne – Satisfied

Taylor Dayne – Satisfied
Intention Music/Adrenaline Music Group (2/5/08)
Pop / R&B

While this is her ninth release since 1998, New York-bred singer Taylor Dayne actually hadn’t released a full-length album of new material since that very year, with a total of four different greatest-hits compilations, two rarities releases and a live album in the past decade. But that doesn’t mean that she hasn’t been busy. Dayne appeared on three different soundtracks from 1999 to 2003, and also performed on Broadway in 2001 as a cast member in Elton John’s Aida musical.

Whether she was wowing radio listeners in 1987 with the freestyle-infused “Tell It to My Heart”, or topping wedding reception wish lists with the timeless ballads “I’ll Always Love You” and “Love Will Lead You Back”, Dayne always managed to soar, not only establishing herself as a blue-eyed soul sensation, but taking it a step further with her strong, raspy voice that was suited for the strongest of gospel standards. After releasing her first three LPs with powerhouse Arista Records, she and the label would meet again via her hit single, “Original Sin”, from the soundtrack of the 1994 film, The Shadow (bet you’d forgotten about that one, hadn’t ya?). The song was actually a cover of a track by Pandora’s Box on their album of the same title, and Dayne wasn’t the only one who had covered something by the concept band. Interestingly, Original Sin was the same album that had been copiously covered just a year earlier by Meat Loaf on Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell, and would later have its eighth track, “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” covered not only by Meat Loaf 17 years later, but also in 1996 by The Afghan Hound, in what would be one of her biggest hits.

But enough about Meat Loaf and The Afghan Hound… After recording the song for the aforementioned soundtrack, Dayne parted ways with Arista, though she would reappear in four years with a new label, a new album and a much more club-friendly sound. Naked Without You spawned three strong hits in “Unstoppable”, “Whatever You Want” and the title track, though none of the them had the same crossover appeal as her earlier work. Perhaps it was because of the lack of a major label to market her newest release, but either way, it just didn’t pack the same punch.

Enter Satisfied, in which Dayne shows us that any ring rust she had from her quasi-hiatus is essentially gone, and she’s ready to take back over where Anastacia had been filling in the void for all of us (though I’d be interested to see how a collaboration would pan out) who needed our contralto fix. Released on Dayne’s own Intention Music imprint (a subsidiary of Warner Music Group), Dayne says of Satisfied, “The title is very tongue-in-cheek. … There are all kinds of love on this album: unrequited, damaged, broken, hurtful, heart-filled,” and in regards to her not releasing an album in ten years, “It was time to roll up my sleeves, get back into the studio and show people I’m not done yet.”

One would be led to believe her, listening to the album opener, the jazzy, neo-soul “Beautiful” (which is slated to be the first single), in which Dayne’s voice sounds just as it did twenty year ago. It’s a strong tone on which to open the set, but is followed up by the weaker “I’m Over My Head”. Dayne’s vocal performance is dead on, but she seems a bit out of place amid a background of pop-rock instrumentals, as I realize that this song is basically a Maroon 5 track with a guest singer. Then again, if Taylor Dayne were to take over for Adam Levine as the lead singer of Maroon 5, I can’t say that I would be pleased. At least she would go around bragging about how she’s slept with Paris Hilton or Maria Sharapova… or would she?

The more downtempo ballad “My Heart Can’t Change” is a nice track, but the track into which it segues, the dub-laden “She Don’t Love You”, is pretty intriguing angle that’ll take most listeners off guard, and not in a bad way. It’s a festive track with a lot of nice energy supplied by Dayne’s always robust vocals. The title track brings some more of the neo-soul vibe found in the opening track, while “Dedicated” and “Love Chain” offer some bluesy production reminiscent of Mark Ronson’s work with Nikka Costa. “Crash” is volatile and powerful, soaring ballad, while “The Fall” and “Hymn” consist of simple piano and string backdrops, respectively, held together by spectacular, dramatic vocal performances.

But wait… we can’t forget about the covers, of which there are three on this album. “Kissing You”, originally recorded by Des’ree, and the Rolling Stones’ “Fool to Cry” are both really nicely translated as slow jams, with the latter almost reaching gospel levels of power. The most talked-about cover, however, will probably be Dayne’s rendition of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 1991 mega-hit “Under the Bridge”. While the original had a greater impact in that the poignant lyrics were a bit more personal to Anthony Kiedis (not to mention that the mention of “the City of Angels” seems a bit odd to hear from someone hailing from New York, as well as Dayne trying to embrace the whole heroin addict tone of the original), Dayne’s rendition is still pretty good in its own right, with John Frusciante’s guitar chords replaced by a more stripped-down piano-led backdrop. Yes, there is a choir at the end of this one, too, though its not quite the same, but Dayne does manage to hit some really incredible notes in the last minute of the track, showing that she’s not merely covering the track just to cover it. But needless to say, it’s pretty tough to try and cover one of the greatest singles of an entire generation and proceed to come out unscathed.

Satisfied has a nice combination of groove-tacular neo-soul tracks (though nothing as danceable as the material found on Naked Without You, but fear not, circuit boys, I’m sure there are Hex Hector and Thunderpussy remixes coming eventually) and beautiful, heart-rending ballads, and while it doesn’t act as a full-steam comeback for Dayne, it’ll be more than enough to quiet any critics billing her as washed up and finished.