CD Review: HYMN (Sarah Brightman)

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by Tony Frankel on November 30, 2018

in CD-DVD,Music

TIME TO SAY GOODBYE

She stands on the cover of her latest album, Hymn, like a diva who just came down from Sinai with the word of God, but instead of 10 Commandments, the British Broadway, West End, and ersatz-pop star Sarah Brightman is wearing a tight golden dress — not unlike Cecil B. deMille’s version of an Egyptian princess — with her hands over her head holding a star aloft as it sends shafts of light out to calm and inspire your weary soul. Is this a pop singer or Aimee Semple McPherson?

With a three-octave range, Brightman’s ethereal childlike breathy pop sound — like an opera singer who inhaled helium or a Disney bird that swallowed a vibrato — isn’t offensive, per se, but this otherworldly Vangelis-on-steroids shebang (recorded in different studios for over two years) feels downright unnatural, including the distant-sounding chorus. The orchestrations are not only overly embellished, but everything sounds alike. With over-loud instrumentation that sounds as if it were mixed in a tin can (sometimes you can’t even tell which instruments are real and which are synthed), and an overtly religious title song about Jesus Christ, it all feels eerie, in the “Big Sister Is Watching You” vein. For her fifteenth album, producer Frank Peterson teaches how it’s possible to over-saturate greats like Mario Ennicone and Eric Whitacre as the selections bounce from pop to opera to retreads (the hit duet with Andrea Bocelli, “Time To Say Goodbye,” gets a solo turn here with lyrics that Sarah wrote in English herself!).

This style of singing, of course, made her perfect for the slightly nutty and ethereal Christine in ex-husband Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Phantom of the Opera, but crossover crap like this (Piano Guys, 2Cellos, La Brightman) is fast becoming tiresome, and only inspires me to put on anything that was recorded before 1970. Perhaps this is over-produced on purpose so the sound can sonically fill those stadiums where she always sells-out… I mean, sells out tickets… and inspiration can’t happen unless it’s pounded in your ears in a majestic production (her world tour started last week).

For those who love this music, I have good news: Brightman has partnered with Swarovski on her world tour, enhancing her world of enchantment with elaborate costumes and dazzling tiaras that will be composed of Swarovski crystals (better bring sunglasses). Fans will have the opportunity to take home a sparkling memento through a variety of custom tour merchandise from Sarah’s signature product line designed and embellished with crystals from Swarovski. You can wear her outfits as her music makes you feel like you’re being beamed from an over-heating, over-crowded planet to an Edenic heaven where Sarah awaits looking like the front cover of this million-dollar tripe.

Hymn
Sarah Brightman
Decca Gold
13 tracks | 47:42 | released November 9, 2018
available on Amazon and iTunes

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeanne Torres February 4, 2019 at 4:04 pm

I completely agree with this review. For years I’ve wanted to see Sarah Brightman in concert and unfortunately, I missed the Super Bowl to attend Hymn in Philadelphia on February 3, 2019 and I am greatly disappointed.

A few upsets: I did not enjoy the religious lyrics of her music; she was very unnatural to the point of being fake; and she was overly focused on costume changes, which made her less appealing. I prefer her classic songs with famous tenors and only enjoyed Hymn when she paired with a male performer. During intermission quite a few of the other guests shared their disappointment in song choices; the Hymn music was not well received. She was OK, but not good enough to miss the Super Bowl. My bad, wish I read your review first.

I’m glad to find this review, where can an audience member post a public review? I was disappointed that the ticket seller “Live Nation” did not ask for a review of her performance, but did ask about the venue the Philadelphia Met.

Thank you!

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Agatha February 6, 2019 at 10:56 pm

I totally disagree… I just came back from the show and I thought it was totally amazing!! Well done.. and the dresses are just stunning. The music and ensemble group was powerful and the show was beautiful.

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Mark February 14, 2019 at 11:09 pm

Frankel’s review is on target. The sound may fill a stadium but it’s indistinct and crushing in a theater. Just saw the Feb. 14 performance of Hymn in Chicago. Ouch. Seriously. Sound aside, the show’s lighting hurts. Live Nation and MSG who presented it should apologize to all of us in the loge (first balcony) at Chicago Theatre. The back lighting (imagine putting your nose against a parked car’s headlight then turning it on bright) was so intensely painful, youngsters winced, adults groaned, shielded their eyes or just kept them closed. Hey, every star deserves a few minutes of backlighting to make a heavenly entrance, but an hour’s worth? Come on. That’s hell. Note to Ms. Brightman: the next time you look out from the stage into the audience and see our faces shining, then the lighting behind you is so bright we can’t see yours. Please tell your crew to fix it. You–and your fans–deserve better.

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Cole Marker February 20, 2019 at 1:11 pm

I just saw the Hymn tour in Chicago last week. Sarah’s voice is absolutely unbelievable — 58 years old and she sounds better than ever! It actually exceeded the recordings; her pitch was magical. Never was a note off. The staging was gorgeous! This is definitely a spiritual lady and it comes through, just her voice in itself is a spiritual presence. Sarah thanks for an evening of magic, a true getaway into her glamorous world of love, sparkles and fantasy.

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