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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Cross-posted from a rant at

A poster at asked "Why are Jill Jones and Wendy & Lisa so overrated?"

Despite the obvious baiting, I decided to take the thing around the block for a ride, and felt happily ranty enough to crosspost it here . . . [And then, much later, contribute it to Mikdev's site. Poor thing! - ed.]

I think the question of overrated and underrated regarding W&L has to do with the period in question and who's doing the rating.

I'll throw you a bone here. In terms of Prince's overall output and career, I think that Wendy & Lisa are overrated in terms of that period. Equally, I think that in the Prince community that period of Wendy & Lisa's lives is overrated in terms of its impact to their overall career.

The Prince years were, without question, fundamental to Wendy & Lisa's careers. Would they have had musical careers without the Prince connection? I don't doubt it - certainly their musical brothers had the Prince connection as well, but that wasn't what they leveraged on their ways to work with later artists. The whole extended family had musical connections, and so while Wendy and Lisa would have radically different musical careers without the Revolution days, I have no doubt they'd still have worked in the industry as the respected sessionists and songwriters they are.

When I look at Wendy & Lisa, I see musicians' musicians. Last week's Largo show was proof of that: Eric Clapton, John Mayers, Seal, Alicia Keys, and many others in the crowd were industry types out to support a group of musicians that clearly spoke to them in their own language. And certainly this shows in the fact they're still in demand as songwriters and sessionists - both for new artists working to establish themselves (Van Hunt, OK Go, and The Like) as well as a very diverse group big names who see in their work something key to work with (Tricky, Gwen Stefani, Eric Clapton, etc, etc.)

I don't think these musicians are choosing to work with Wendy & Lisa as musicians, songwriters and producers because of some over-rated hype. Clearly folks Eric Clapton can take their pick of musicians and songwriters. When we get into the current period of Wendy & Lisa's career, I would have to say that their music is held in high esteem by their peers and fairly underrated outside the industry.

So let's get back to that bone I'm ready to throw you.

When I listen to the old Prince music, I hear some very young women who were still growing into themselves, and had yet to become the incredibly competent and strong musicians they are today. Given their youth, I'm very impressed - things like Lisa's piano solos on "Anotherloverholenyohead," stopping on a dime in a key whispered in her head only a few minutes before? Impressive, but . . . not where she is now in terms of her scoring work. Wendy's ability to hold the energy of a massive stadium crowd and lead the band during the Parade tour? Good stuff - unquestionably - but compared to her jam with Eric Clapton and Doyle Bramhall II at Largo last week, it was really only prep work.

So here's what I'll say. Over the last 20 years Wendy & Lisa have just begun to hit their full stride in perhaps the last 8 (since Girl Bros, and hence after most of their albums were released). Compared to what they are doing now in their session, songwriting and scoring work, the Revolution work is indeed highly overrated.

Here's my question for you. Do you also believe that Prince has grown, challenged and extended his work over the last 20 years? Can you say of him that his work now, compared to the Revolution days, is better, worse, or about the same? And if he's not continuing to challenge himself to get better over time, why not?


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