Sunday, 23 May 2010

Just Jane

As she looks like Kelly Llorenna's younger sister, I won't lie to you, I am as partial to ex-cruiser Jane McDonald as she is to any artery-clogging pie, but not when she sings. When she is not bye-ecking and oh weren't it great when women were women and gays were men on her career-saving role on ITV's Loose Women, she actually releases a steady flow of covers albums with each concept even more flat than her real hair: 2001s Jane Does The Movies (or whatever it is called) is a life-changing experience for various reasons. Former cruiser Jane is the thinking man's Daily Mail reader's wife, and from the broken heart song titles she comes across as more battered than some of her favourite meals. My curiosity was piqued with a prick when I had the Almighty remix of her Doctors Orders prescribed to me via necessity, and thought I'd see what the fuss was all about.

Perhaps it is her andearing-but-daft ambition to be womanly and glam like her idols, but banishing her Northern spoken idiom is a great loss. Not once does she adapt any of these songs to exude her innate camp girth. Her dry-but-sweet comb-over vocals stick stubbornly to the same banal melodies, her flatliner old lady fans will probably wet themselves for it. Being a glorified cruise singer, she at least elicits a strange kind of auntie drag queen sisterly sympathy, her sweetness is like affordable buck's fizz.

In 2008 Jane brought the London gay scene to a standstill with this disco version. The 47 year old clearly wants to be Dusty Springfield when she grows up, but it's nice to know she would happily settle for Belle Lawrence. The songs: all of of them warm, thoughtless and likable, tinged with propriety and self-regard, and sparing us the ordeal of co-writes, Jane is free to bung her man in his shed and occupy herself doing lady things (I swear David Walliams used Jane as inspiration for his ubiquitous Little Britain sketch).

Vocally Jane's got her work cut out: only on Doctor's Orders' first verse does any grit rise to the surface. With a voice like melted butter, her ductile, dispassionate and docile contralto rarely gets hot under the collar. Except on this single's monologue where she gets all hot and bothered down the phone, but ditches her northern charm now that she's out to impress. Ps and Qs are remembered on Time For Love. Gasping ballad Song For You gets a bit carried away - 10,000 people watching Jane McDonald sing, oh as if sister. Mas Que Nada is an almost daring choice: once again the arrangements are considerate of her audience's incontinence; she could have let rip on this one and she kind of blows it. If I Knew Him uses some autotune - at this stage a Flip N' Fill remix wouldn't go a miss. How Do You Keep The Music Playing reads my mind - I'm wondering where her gusto has gone.

Above: Jane on slightly better form - if being crap and tragic works for you that is, which it does for me.

Sweet Talker
is better slightly, cheeky and ramming the message down some poor guy's throat - it's nothing I'll ever listen to again so don't judge me if you ever track any of these down. If You Love Me has an orchestra and it's a faithful version. Time to wake up her front row, Nine Times Out of Ten probably anticipates their sense of rhythm as well. You Do It All For Me almost wants to be a Tina Turner arrangement or Cher's World Without Heroes.

Above: 'hold me back Mother, I'm goin' out for a pie'.

Covers are hard to get hold off, lyrically they don't identify the singer, and it really limits herself to simply sound as if the songs are recorded 5 minutes after choosing which ones in a hurry before Loose Women goes back on air after a commercial break (speaking of, this was a top ten album for the singer, her first in 8 years). In neither wit nor brass does she approach her Loose Women persona (she doesn't even keep that up whilst sitting up straight when she gets the chance whilst promoting 'Jane - the singer'). She doesn't stick up for herself the way I would expect and the effect is utterly flaccid. The Almight remix pointed her in the right direction, but she has yet to exploit her potential as being even more tragic than Mary Kiani having a sister on the game, or Nikki French asking you if you need any help whilst you happen to be shopping in ASDA. Full of glop where there should be gusto and even some raunch - where her regional rough-around-the-edges/wrong-side-of-40 experience could provide credible seasoning, Jane just stands there singing, thinking of England. 14 frigid documents of sexless autocue lust - only suckers for kitsch and ooh doo-doo-doos will accept it.

Whey, it's me - Jane!

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