Album Reviews

Sheryl Crow – Evolution

(Big Machine) UK release date: 29 March 2024

The radio-friendly anthems expert is back from retirement with a 12th album of pop rock numbers

Sheryl Crow - Evolution In 2019, Sheryl Crow announced her retirement as a recording artist. Her final album was to be Threads, a genre-hopping record with a plethora of guest stars including Sting, Keith Richards, Stevie Nicks, Chuck D and St Vincent. It was an ambitious, valedictory exercise that was intended to seal an impressive 30 year career.

Except, like James Brown, Frank Sinatra, and even James Murphy, Sheryl Crow obviously found retirement wasn’t exactly to her liking. And, taking her own advice and deciding that a change could do her good, we now have Evolution, Crow’s 12th studio album.

Don’t expect anything too wildly different though – Evolution picks up where Threads left off, and is a solid album of pop-rock songs, only without the list of celebrity friends this time around. The problem is that nothing on Evolution can hold a candle to her best work.

For, at her best, Crow is an expert at radio-friendly pop anthems. Songs like All I Wanna Do, My Favourite Mistake and Soak Up The Sun still stand up today, over 20 years after their initial release. And Evolution starts pretty well, to be fair – Alarm Clock is a crunchy, rocky anthem with guitar from Rage Against The Machine‘s Tom Morello, all about how much she hates her alarm clock waking her up in the morning (a sentiment anyone can agree with). Sadly it’s about the liveliest that Evolution gets.

The title track addresses the rise of Artificial Intelligence, especially when it comes to music. Crow’s lyrics are pertinent (“turned on the radio and there it was – a song that sounded like something I wrote”), and is intended to make the point that AI can never be as soulful as the real thing. The problem is that the song itself is pretty bland and, ironically enough, sounds like something ChatGPT would produce if prompted to “write a Sheryl Crow-style song about artificial intelligence”.

There’s a decent song lurking in Love Life, but it’s over-stretched to five and a half minutes – the last two minutes of which are simply Crow and her band singing “na na na” as if she’s attempting to cover Hey Jude. Do It Again and You Can’t Change The Weather are pretty standard mid-tempo rockers that are fine but, ultimately, forgettable.

The dips into piano ballads aren’t that much more successful. Don’t Walk Away is a plea for people to work on their relationships more (“seems like no one stays together anymore, it’s just too easy to walk out on an open door”), and while the strings and piano are lovely, it all becomes a bit cliché-ridden by the end of the song.

At least Crow sounds like she’s having fun on Broken Record, a knockabout song which hides a serious message about social media and the platforms on which people can spread hate. Waiting In The Wings too is a big, arena-filling anthem, one which brings the album to a close after just 35 minutes.

There’s nothing essentially wrong with Evolution, but it just sounds like it’s mostly been written on auto-pilot. It’s always nice to have a musician of Crow’s calibre still active, but Evolution feels more like an inessential addition to her canon, rather than the glorious comeback it was no doubt intended to be.

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