85th and Nowhere
The Collegiate Girl is back.
Don’t misunderstand — the Collegiate Girl is not a singular person. Rather, it’s almost like a genre. Back in the late ’80s, there were a number of female artists, such as 10,000 Maniacs, Suzanne Vega and Edie Brickell, who rebelled against the superficial pop of Madonna, opting for well-written verses and a down-to-earth image and voice. Ever since the arrival of Tori Amos and Hole in the early ’90s, though, that all changed. It wasn’t cool — or commercially viable enough — for a woman to write smart, poetic lyrics without an accompanying rage.
Singer/songwriter Michele Ari doesn’t sound angry at all; what was once the alternative is now the alternative to the alternative. Yes, Ari is old school; the jangling guitars on “My Sleeping Beauty” could’ve been found on any Guadalcanal Diary record in a campus station’s vinyl archives. Her vocals are subdued, moody and very pretty on “Pretty,” a revealing look at a woman’s psyche when her self-confidence has eroded and all she feels she has left is her physical beauty. “Pretty” epitomizes the Collegiate Girl mystique: wounded, intelligent and dark. Ari probably cried to Morrissey songs in her dorm room — and we certainly need more women like that. At times, she sounds a little bit like Chrissie Hynde, although not as ticked off.
Those who miss the Collegiate Girl will be kicking themselves if they pass this up.
Michele Ari: www.micheleari.com