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Jem | Down to Earth

ATO (2008)
By MIKAEL WOOD  |  September 23, 2008
2.5 2.5 Stars
Even if you didn’t buy Finally Woken, this Welsh singer’s 2004 debut, you’ve probably heard selections from it, thanks to Jem’s popularity among Hollywood music supervisors, who’ve stuck her songs into a bevy of high-profile movies and TV shows including Sex and the City, The OC, and Grey’s Anatomy. Given the current dependability of that revenue stream (as opposed to that of record sales), it’s no surprise that nearly every track on Jem’s new sophomore set sounds as if it had been designed to reserve her seat aboard the gravy train. Working with writer-producers like Lester Mendez (a frequent collaborator with Shakira and Santana) and Greg Kurstin of the Bird and the Bee, she layers airy, tightly harmonized vocal hooks over sleek synths, strummy guitars, and booming hip-hop beats, and the songs broadcast their emotional content — anxiety, melancholy, resilience — with a straightforwardness you rarely hear outside children’s music. That simplicity doesn’t detract from the ample melodic and textural pleasures, but it does give Down to Earth a limited shelf life — that is, provided you’re listening with the television off.
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  Topics: CD Reviews , Shakira, Lester Mendez, Greg Kurstin,  More more >
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