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  Myself When I am Real
Artist: Bebo Norman
Label: Essential
Time: 12 tracks/49:17 min.

Myself When I am Real seems contrived to such an extent that I have a difficult time listening to it without distraction. As I listen to the songs, recurring visions of teenage girls staring in rapt attention dominate my mind. Facing the stage, hands folded in the classic prayer posture and placed vertically to one side of their faceóthe young ladies convey a reverence reserved only for the boyfriend who will always be out of reach. Why? Well, because heís a rock star.

Bebo Norman is the epitome of a rock star. He has classic good looks, a boyish demeanor that makes him seem approachable, and, most obviously, in his most recent effort, songs that tell this demographic what they want to hear. Here are a few random lines pulled from the songs of Myself When I am Real: Because I see you and I need you.

And I know I couldnít leave you if I tried to walk away. 
Please donít go away. lease donít leave me here. I know if you donít stay, my heart will disappear. 
I donít know you, but I love you anyway.  
On my shoulder, there is a place for you to cry.
Iíll be your shelter, when there is nowhere to hide.
Would you believe in me, or would you turn away and leave? 
Either way my love Ö I would give my soul just to look at you. 
Since the later days of Jesus Music, artists have surreptitiously attempted to expand their audience, often with the employment of double-entendre lyrics. Indeed, most of the songs on Myself When I am Real--dare I say it--appear to have been intentionally written with mixed meaning. Songs written with layers can be artistically satisfying. But honestly, these songs go too far, which almost makes me a little queasy.

Artists and the record companies they represent can choose to market their projects by whatever means they choose. Still, that doesn't mean consumers have to like it or buy it. Am I going too far by suggesting that itís a tad underhanded to maximize units sold and earnings potential by covert, concurrent marketing? Maybe. Still, that doesn't erase my innermost speculation. 

Hey, maybe Norman wrote these tunes without any attempt to spiritualize them. Perhaps they were designed from the get-go as love songs. Nothing more, nothing less. Naturally, if that were the case, it would be easier to respect the effort.

Musically, this may be Normanís best effort--well crafted, hook-laden power pop which displays Normanís throaty yet polished vocal style. Iíll bet the girls like that part, too. 

Curt McLey August 14, 2003

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