“Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful,” model Rosie Vela used to say in her ’80s TV commercial. That line echoed through my mind as I listened to fashion model and actress Cynthia Basinet’s new compilation of material, a wildly varied group of songs from her previous CDs, none of which I was familiar with. Like Vela, Basinet ventures into the classy, well-dressed world of smooth jazz but there’s more creative adventurousness percolating here.
Vocal jazz enthusiasts who will delight at Basinet’s mournful rendition of “Someone To Watch Over Me” and a deceptively innocuous but very erotic “Santa Baby” will have an ear-popping experience near the end of the record when Basinet’s dance-club stompers “Yellow Taxi” and “God” beat to the rhythm of a different drum. In this case, a synthetic one; the soulfulness of Basinet’s other material is stripped bare, giving way to looped beats made for European raves. Of the two, “Yellow Taxi” is more engaging, closer to the ’80s bump and grind than the relentless adrenaline of “God.” I’m not sure how suited Basinet’s warm vocals is for this stuff, but it certainly is a surprise to new, unenlightened listeners.
For all the cuteness of “Santa Baby” and bounce of “Yellow Taxi,” there are some depressing songs here. “Eventually” is the agonizing sound of not getting over a departed lover, and “Haunted Heart” reaches depths of despair that Tori Amos can only dream of. If it’s cloudy and raining where you are, then they will provide the perfect soundtrack.
Basinet has a powerhouse of a voice; she can be seductive when she wants to be and effectively woeful if the lyrics call for it. Even if you’ll hate her because she’s beautiful, you’ll love her because her singing will knock your socks off.
Cynthia Basinet: www.cynthiabasinet.com