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What's New is an album by Linda Ronstadt that was released in September of 1983 by Asylum Records.

The album represents the first in a trilogy of 1980s albums that Ronstadt recorded with bandleader/arranger Nelson Riddle.

TracklistingEdit

  1. What's New 3:55
  2. I've Got A Crush On You 3:28
  3. Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry 4:13
  4. Crazy He Calls Me 3:33
  5. Someone To Watch Over Me 4:09
  6. I Don't Stand A Ghost Of A Chance With You 4:06
  7. What'll I Do 4:06
  8. Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be) 4:18
  9. Goodbye 4:47

Album BackgroundEdit

"What's New" spawned a major change in popular culture because back then, Ronstadt was considered the leading female vocalist in rock music.

Both Ronstadt's record company and manager, Peter Asher, were very reluctant to produce this album with Ronstadt, but eventually her determination won them over and the albums exposed a whole new generation to the sounds of the pre-swing and swing eras.

The one-time popular music sung by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Peggy Lee, and their contemporaries was relegated in the 1960s and 1970s to Las Vegas club acts and elevator music.

Ronstadt later remarked that she did her part in rescuing these songs which she called "little jewels of artistic expression" from "spending the rest of their lives riding up and down on the elevators."

In an article in Time Magazine, Ronstadt said: "This record is the most important thing I have ever done, the best songs I have ever sung and the best singing I have ever done. I feel it's my life's work in a way. I don't know what my fans will think of it. I don't care too much. I hope they like it, but if they don't there is nothing I can do about it." Or would want to. No one in contemporary rock or pop can sound more enamored, or winsome, or heartbroken, in a love song than Linda Ronstadt. Singing the tunes on What's New, or even just talking about them, she still sounds like a woman in love: "It's like falling for a man. You can't not do it. He might be married or maybe not even like you very much and make a complete fool out of you, but you have to have him. When you fall in love you have no choice, and I literally had no choice with these songs. I was hijacked."

Chart PerformanceEdit

"What's New" peaked at #3 on the Billboard 200 and was certified 3x platinum by the RIAA.

Critical ReceptionEdit

Stephen Holden of The New York Times noted the significance of the album to popular culture when he wrote that it "isn't the first album by a rock singer to pay tribute to the golden age of pop, but is ... the best and most serious attempt to rehabilitate an idea of pop that Beatlemania and the mass marketing of rock LP's for teen-agers undid in the mid-60's (sic). In the decade prior to Beatlemania, most of the great band singers and crooners of the 40's (sic) and 50's (sic) codified a half-century of American pop standards on dozens of albums, many of them now long out-of-print."

Robert Christgau gave the album a grade of "C-", writing: "Especially given the rich little rich girl's South African connection, I ignored this airless atrocity--lots of bad records sell, and parents do need X-mas gifts. But when it scored in my own critics' poll I could remain silent no longer. Forget phrasing, interpretation, or--God knows from someone who had trouble rocking "Heat Wave"--swing. All Ronstadt does with these fine-to-middling pop standards is stifle them beneath her moderately gorgeous voice. Her triumph is conceptual--genteel neoconservatives, kneejerk pluralists, one-upping convolutionists, and out-and-out ignoramuses all get off on the idea of a "rock" performer validating the prerock values such songs signal. And may every one of them wear a tie, a garter belt, or both for the rest of their shrinking lives."

Christopher Connelly from Rolling Stone gave the album a three-star rating, saying that Ronstadt "has learned a lot about singing from her exposure to these standards is readily apparent. But had she cast these songs in new settings, she might have introduced them to a whole new audience and proved their lasting greatness in the process."

Stephen Thomas Erlwine of AllMusic said: "Ronstadt's voice isn't always showcased to a fine effect on these songs, but the record is an interesting change of pace."

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