In what is perhaps her most personal collection of songs to date, Melissa Etheridge tells an autobiographical story through lyrics on her ninth studio album release entitled, "The Awakening." The album touches on beliefs, personal struggles and problems of the universe at large. An accomplished singer-songwriter and woman rock star, Etheridge pulls out all the stops in "The Awakening", giving her fans and new listeners something to be excited about.
The disc begins with a prelude of "All There Is", a soft intro of vocals and background guitar. A full song follows with a full voice singing of the freedom and dreams that lie in "California." After the sunshine state-inspired tune is the Santana-sounding melody of "An Unexpected Rain." Three quarters of the song is slow tempoed, with a jam-packed instrumentation and chorus kicking in at the song's end. The most radio-friendly pop tune is found in "A Message To Myself", the first single off the album. It has a wonderful message, great sing-a-long quality and a nice melody. "God Is In The People" is the next hopeful track/interlude. Yet, another tune of the bad side of fame (sung by someone who is rich and famous) strikes "Map Of The Stars." It runs a bit long at over five minutes, but the story goes full circle.
Etheridge kicks it into country mode with the comedic "Threesome." Complete with twangy vocals, dramatic Jerry Springer-ish lyrics, the music is actually worth listening to. Similar to John Lennon's legendary chorus chant in "Give Peace A Chance", Melissa offers an interlude of "All We Can Really Do." A heart-wrenching ballad is what "I've Loved You Before" brings. It boasts touching lyrics, "Did I hold you in my arms as you were taking your last breath? Did I shout to all the gods that I would love you beyond death?"
"A Simple Love" is another short and sweet passing into the next track.
"Heroes And Friends" is forgettable, unlike "The Kingdom Of Heaven," which is sure to send chills down one's spine. It is undoubtedly one of the best protest songs written in a long time. Containing political issues, it speaks of war, suffering souls and what Etheridge's beliefs are; specifically, what the God she believes in is like. Put your lighters in the air for "Open Your Mind", urging the listener to not fall into a rut or give up hope... keep fighting to get your message across. "The Universe Listened" is driven by its chorus cry and flows smoothly into "Imagine That." This track is very much pro-troops and anti-war.
"The Awakening" tries to open eyes with the longest record on the album. The nearly perfect song, "What Happens Tomorrow", runs 6:18 minutes. The powerfully mastered lyrics are sung with deserved pride. It is an inspirational outlook on what can be for the future. The disc leaves the audience with the lingering question.: "If not now, when? If not today, then what happens tomorrow? What happens tomorrow? If you become the change you want to see, you change. What happens tomorrow? What happens tomorrow?"
Melissa Etheridge is not just a superb singer-songwriter, but an underrated champion of modern rock. The guitars on "The Awakening" rivals any orchestration found on other albums. The lyrics, the unique full vocals, the message; all these factors add up to a fantastic work of musical art. Not only autobiographical of her personal battles with breast cancer and the fight to heal, "The Awakening" is eye opening on other levels. It is a deep breath of fresh air, a hopeful sunny look of what can be, and an enjoyable listen for fans and non-fans alike.