Saturday, October 06, 2007

Nothin’ Like The Summer (2007) – Carmen Rasmusen

Carmen Rasmusen is the only American Idol contestant I have ever voted for. (That is, until Season 7 when Kristy Lee Cook and Kady Malloy made the Top 24.) My selectiveness proved to be well-founded: not only will “Nothin’ Like The Summer” stand as a timeless summer song, but also as the best single by an Idol contestant to date.

“Nothin’” finds Carmen’s fresh-faced persona smack dab in the dog days of small-town America, idle and innocent. Romance is on the agenda, as she ruminates over the hallmarks of the season where recreation and pastime are preludes to canoodling at the county fair. The song doesn’t rely on a catchy hook so much as it does an umbrella of well-crafted lyrics, an easy-going melody, and a relaxed pace. What impresses even more is that Rasmusen co-wrote this song, whereas other Idol contestants have launched songs assembled by producers from a team of songwriters.

A budding artistry is evident in her lyrics. While the “flip-flops”/”tic-toc” rhyme could have been corny, in context it smartly evokes the seasonal laze where the golden rules hammered into the brain during school are stashed away in favor of life’s leisurely pursuits and love’s geometry. Contemporary country music too often abuses descriptive literal narratives without regard for the listener’s ability to interpolate a lyric’s meaning. While Rasmusen constructs her estival ode with picturesque descriptions, she affords the listener sufficient leeway to import their own experience: the enterprise of the lemonade stand; the dizzying swoon of flirtation on the Ferris wheel; the dusk-‘till-dawn adventures by the lake; the stardust lounge of the backyard barbeque.

Perhaps the four-year layover between the height of her Idol fame and eventual album release allowed Rasmusen to address the vocal tendencies which so many had criticized while she was a contestant; they are barely discernable now, if at all. Carmen’s vocals unfurl with controlled dynamics and expressive warmth, a picnic blanket on which to recline as she basks in the festival of her senses. And, as evidenced here and elsewhere on her debut album, Rasmusen’s voice charms most endearingly when it sails into its falsetto.

As far as the most celebrated Idol alumnae go, Kelly Clarkson’s biggest hits were moderately catchy, but largely a product of pre-packaged songwriting that never rose above the One Tree Hill demographic at which they were aimed. Carrie Underwood, with her pop-tinged voice, is miscast as a country artist, which makes her success in that industry mind-boggling. Carmen Rasmusen will probably never reach the commercial milestones Clarkson and Underwood have enjoyed, but her success lies in making a memorable splash long after the ship of Season 2 Idol hoopla left the harbor. With the strength of “Nothin’ Like The Summer” as her lead-off single, if “Stranded” and “Keep Me Forever Falling” are released as follow-ups, she may yet score a ride on a luxury liner.

  • Listen to "Nothin' Like The Summer" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.

    Anonymous said...

    Your post is right on. I was just reading Carmen's story in the new American Idol edition Chicken Soup for the Soul earlier and was excited to see this blog post.

    “You’re meant to do this.” Those were the words that Carmen's mom told her when she said she wanted to be an American Idol. Obviouslly her mom was right, her music is bright and vibrant. Looking forward to more albums to come.

    The Seventh Stranger said...

    Thanks for the comment. Carmen is a refreshing talent who deserves widespread recognition.