By Kim Filipek

I just saw a live TV performance of the song "A Thousand Miles", the first single from one of Rolling Stone magazine's "Artists to Watch", Vanessa Carlton. The first thing I noticed was her striking resemblance to Michelle Branch, a female solo artist and guitarist who has recently hit the charts. Both are young, attractive brunettes who ever-so-conveniently appeal and relate to the youthful music fans of right now. Carlton plays piano and wrote every song on her debut album that is to be released in March, entitled Be Not Nobody. The song "A Thousand Miles" begins with piano and is soon accompanied by guitars and percussion. I was intrigued by the performance; I thought it was excellent, especially for being Carlton's first live performance ever.

So what's next? Will another cookie-cutter female talent win the hearts of MTV fans, creating another disturbing trend of good music ruined by the money-grabbing hands of the industry and listeners who have no idea what good music is? It's situations like this that make me hate the mainstream. I feel that some incredible artists have been screwed over by being automatically introduced into the hands of major labels. I stand by my opinion that if Michelle Branch had been picked up by a small label such as Vagrant or Drive-Thru Records; her album would be a million times better than it is now. Don't get me wrong, I think Branch is a very talented guitar player and singer who deserves appreciation and respect by those that can recognize the talent. But the album is just too overproduced. I've been lucky enough to hear some of the album tracks performed acoustically without any backup messing it up, and it's excellent. "Sweet Misery" is one of my favorite examples. The album version has classical instruments, mildly synthesized vocals with unnecessary backup vocals, which I feel makes the song seem fake and just plain overproduced. In my opinion the talent is being wasted and covered up because the young music fans don't want to hear something pure like raw vocals with some guitar strumming. And it makes me question whether the artists at hand decided to let themselves be screwed over for the money, for the fame, or for sheer lack of knowledge that these smaller record labels without the extra cash to spend on overproduction exist. Whatever the case, I think it's sad. Hopefully this won't become a trend, and if it does that it dies out fast. Then maybe Vanessa Carlton, Michelle Branch and others like them can get appreciation from the listeners that aren't going to be doing so because it's on MTV, but because we recognize the talent.