From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Donna Summer “Crayons” (Burgandy Records)
Donna Summer’s first studio album since 1991, “Crayons” creates not a colorful musical composition but a predictable paint-by-numbers pop album.
The “Queen of Disco” comes across less like singing royalty and more like a copycatting commoner subsisting on scraps left by Gwen Stefani, Nelly Furtado and Natasha Bedingfield. Summer co-wrote all 12 tracks, but the material sounds less suited to a still-vibrant 59-year-old diva than to a 20-something pop tart.
It also follows too closely a careful blueprint for pop success: It opens with the pep-rally inspired “Stamp Your Feet,” dabbles in reggae with a Ziggy Marley duet on the title track, and puts a Latin twist on “Drivin’ Down Brazil” and “I’m a Fire.”
Summer could always outsing the other disco-era divas, and her voice has lost none of its sultry power. But her strong voice is largely lost in layers of thudding bass lines, synthy sound effects and repetitive refrains.
She exudes enough attitude and vocal prowess on the “The Queen Is Back” and “Fame (The Game)” to make the dance-pop trappings work for her. A dash of Cajun-flavored Southern blues gives a spicy kick to “Slide Over Backwards.”
A pair of disparate love songs – the unabashedly romantic “Sand on My Feet” and danceable “Science of Love”- also help brighten up “Crayons.”
The album had the potential for vivid success, if only Summer had colored outside the lines of present-day pop convention.