Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Renee Olstead: Skylark

That mega-producer David Foster is a genius at marketing pop singers is beyond question. His work, as applied to an assembly line of hit-makers that extends from Streisand and Cher to Groban and Bublé, is invariably slick and überprofessional, polished to a blinding sheen. He knows precisely what it takes to tap into the pop culture zeitgeist, and is consistently on the money when it comes to the pulse-taking of the music-buying masses. So, working his brand of star-making magic with teenaged powerhouse Renee Olstead for the second time (he also produced her eponymous debut in 2004), Foster can virtually guarantee her Groban- or Bublé-sized success-but at what cost?

Left to her own devices, the Texas lass with the dynamite range and slightly countrified timbre has the makings of a top-flight pop-jazz artist along the lines of Jane Monheit or Paula Cole. But Foster tends to bury her in stifling blankets of excess, layering on waves of strings, banks of backup singers and often overwhelmingly grand arrangements. Marquee additions like Chris Botti (marking his third union with Olstead with “When I Fall in Love”) and the Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra (motoring through a version of “Thanks for the Boogie Ride” that proves as tame as Anita O’Day’s was hip) only add to the sense that Olstead is being packaged rather than produced.

Originally Published