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Shelly Peikin’s album 2.0 etc: notes and words that are unmatched in today’s music world, but fit right in.

Shelly Peikin says her new album, 2.0 etc. allowed her to get back to what she really loves — singing and recording her songs.  She has built a career as one of music’s best songwriters with two #1 hits, a Grammy nomination for Best Rock song, platinum records, and hundreds of tunes licensed to film and television productions.  Her songs have been recorded by Christina Aguilera, Brandy, Celine Dion, Cher, Reba McIntire, and many others.

Her joy of singing and recording those songs herself comes through in this album in every one of Peikin’s notes and lyrics.  Listening to 2.0 etc is sheer pleasure.

Of course, the flagship song on 2.0 etc is “Bitch,” the Grammy-nominated female anthem she wrote in 1998 with Meredith Brooks whose recording of it went platinum the following year. When Peikin wrote “Bitch” in 1998 it resonated with women and served as a rallying cry.  In her hands today on 2.0 etc., the message of “Bitch” is as fresh as ever but much more sophisticated.  Peikin sings the same words, but she deepens and expands the message and speaks to all of us  – men and women -with the notes between the words, one of her signature talents.

That talent is combined on the album with her other unique skill – her ability to find and stimulate the music enjoyment nerve in just about anyone in any genre. She opens the album with “What a Girl Wants,” written for Christina Aguilera in 1999 but in a way that feels more intimate than the original.  The 2.0 etc. version immediately lets you know that his album is not a stroll down memory lane, but is right at home on the pop radio dial today.

Peikin shifts to a deeper R&B feeling in “Almost Doesn’t Count,” a song written in 1999 for Brandy but is really about Peikin’s own on-again, off-again relationship during her college years.  Then she moves back to the pop territory with an upbeat “BeYouthful” that hits your music nerve again with its up-to-the-minute production while it makes your day with its lyrics.

“Be Youthful” sets you up for the beautiful and poignant “Notebook,”,  about a notebook she keeps to give her daughter.  As a father, it just about made me cry as it brought back memories, 

albeit tinted cinematically by Peikin’s soft, intense, but gently personal vocals.  This is one for replay.

“George and John” doesn’t quite re-create the Beatles, but it comes so close you grin all the way through this paean to the Fab Four.  A masterpiece of writing and composition, it is just plain fun.  “Human (on the Inside),” written with Mark Macintee and recorded by the Pretenders and Australia’s Divinyl, moves you along with a steady beat, light production touches, and Peikin’s curling vocals.

“I’m Not the kind of girl you bring to mother” she sings in the next song, “Stumble,” written with Greg Wells, a modern statement that definitely touches your music nerve with a robust beat and aggressive piano.  And it sets you up for one of the most potent songs on the album, “Love is War,”  with its wrenching lyrics:

I don’t feel the sting/I don’t feel anything
I’ve gone numb/From all the damage done
But I’m lying here on the floor/So many times before/Love is war

Shelly explains that she wrote “Love Is War” for Britney Spears, who never recorded it:

“I sat down at my piano.  She (Spears) was in the news, she was having all these tumultuous relationships….I tried to write it as if I were her – and I am not saying I was because I really had no idea of what was going on in her mind, it was my imagination of what was going on in there…..I sat down at the piano and I  had that dun- dun- dun- dun in my head…just one little riff but it was evocative enough that it set a whole song in motion, and that is what happened.”   

To me, what also happened is a song that defined the brilliance of Peikin’s songwriting talent.  The many stories it seems to tell, the question it asks from many perspectives, the pain in the lyrics delivered with a voice that is detached, floating above the scene, commenting almost neutrally is disturbing but also mesmerizing.  “Bitch” was an anthem that says “this is who I/we are, so love us and don’t try to understand us”.  “Love is War” says something far more complex, maybe far more real:  this is what happens when we love and maybe understand each other all too well. “Love is War” will stay with you for a long, long time.

Peikin ends the album with “Who You Are,” a song she wrote with Tobias Gad and Jessie Cornish who recorded as Jessie J (the song was also later recorded by Ed Sheeran), about being yourself.  Effused with Peikin’s confident full voice and hypnotic arrangement, it is a perfect wrap for an album that takes you on a personally guided voyage through the heart, mind, and life of a woman who has something to say and the talent to say it with notes and words that are unmatched in today’s music world but fit right in.

Shelly Peikin

2.0 etc. is available for streaming on all platforms.  Physical copies are available directly from Peikin through her Facebook page.

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Patrick O’Heffernan, PhD., is a music journalist and radio broadcaster based in Los Angeles, California, with a global following. His two weekly radio programs, MusicFridayLive! and MusicaFusionLA are heard nationwide and in the UK. He focuses on two music specialties: emerging bands in all genres, and the growing LA-based ALM genre (American Latino Music) that combines rock and rap, blues and jazz and pop with music from Latin America like cumbia, banda, jarocho and mariachi. He also likes to watch his friend drag race.

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