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Alicia Reneé: Wait for Me

It’s impossible not to be impressed by Minneapolis wunderkind Alicia Renee. Like the musical equivalent of the adolescent Jodie Foster, the heavily hyped 18-year-old is smart, intuitive and remarkably self-assured. Too young and inexperienced to have developed a distinctive sound, Renee instead borrows liberally from the best, evoking shades of Sinatra, Cole, Lee and even Presley on Wait for Me (Summit), her 15-track spin through the annals of vintage pop. (Apart from “Prince Ali” from Disney’s Aladdin and the self-penned title track, every selection is several decades older than the singer herself). She’s obviously, though, listened most assiduously to Judy Garland. Favoring grand, Garlandesque gestures, she tries with considerable success to emulate that big, bold Garland sound and includes such signature tunes as “You Made Me Love You,” “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” and “Get Happy” in her repertoire. Where Renee stumbles is on songs that demand the wisdom of maturity. Her “Why Don’t You Do Right?” is coyly alluring, but it fails to appreciate that Lee crafted it as a sassy paean to self-empowerment. Similarly, her sugary “Summer Wind” misses the gentle, reflective ache that made Sinatra’s so enticing, and her “Stormy Weather” sounds more like a teen tempest in a teapot. Wait for Me is, perhaps, a prescient title. Renee is a bucket of raw talent that needs both seasoning and refinement. It’ll happen; she’s too fundamentally gifted for it not to. When it does, it will surely have been worth waiting for.

Originally Published