Mostly Just Hell
When you’re a huge solo artist, selecting your touring band is as much about chops as it is about vibe. Casting your lead guitarist – likely, the most front and center musician in your stage show – is even more of a vibe-based choice. Lady Gaga’s Ricky Tillo, Katy Perry’s Casey Hooper, Prince/Mariah/Justin Timberlake’s Mike Scott – these guys have skills, but they also have serious presence…so when they walk to the front of the arena stage and shred, the audience has no choice but to go totally bananas.
As a hired gun, Orianthi is the full package. Great player, great look, and she’s a SHE – which ups the cool factor for any backup band member by one hundred percent. Carrie Underwood, Michael Jackson and Alice Cooper all made wise choices, bringing this ultra-radical blonde onto their respective teams. If that weren’t enough, Orianthi tops off her impressive resume with opening spots, jams, and performances with the likes of Michael Bolton, Steve Vai, Dave Stewart and Santana. So her new solo record Heaven in this Hell should totally rock, right?
Unfortunately, a terrific supporting player does not a leader make. Heaven in this Hell sounds mostly like a collection of canned songs for future American Idols.
Though Orianthi’s voice is decent and the production nice and polished, this record feels like a gathering of tunes to be sick of before they even hit the Top 40. Songs like “Fire,” “You Don’t Wanna Know,” and “Another You,” wallow in a middling country power-pop zone, without an organic or fresh moment to speak of. “How Does That Feel” veers oddly off-genre into a bland blend of easy listening and ’90s R&B for the first half, followed by a shmaltzy Monsters of Rock shred section.
No amount of fancy guitar licks or vocal noodles can rescue Heaven in this Hell from its mud puddle of mediocrity. Though Orianthi remains a stunner onstage, perhaps she’s not meant to go solo on the songwriting front.