Janis Ian Don Shewey - Essay

Don Shewey

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

As far as hype goes, it may have been all over for Janis Ian when she quit writing hit songs about being an ugly teenager with a hit song. But as her craft matures, Ian's lyrics get more distilled, her emotions more subtle, the brisk melodies more distinctive. And her best numbers have become the kind of adult love songs that make singers cry and other composers bite their lips….

[Janis Ian] contains at least three tunes ("That Grand Illusion," "Tonight Will Last Forever," "Silly Habits") as fine and strong as her classic "Jesse."…

The LP has mistakes, but they are few: the solo-piano backing on "Hopper Painting" grows dull, and "The Bridge" presents an embarrassing string of corny metaphors about "the oceans of our lives." Otherwise, the new disc's delightful consistency makes it easy to empathize with the veiled bitterness of "Hotels & One-Night Stands."…

Despite their considerable virtues, Janis Ian and 1977's Miracle Row have gone practically unnoticed. Why the huge successes of "At Seventeen" and Between the Lines haven't carried over to Ian's subsequent work is a complete mystery to me.

Don Shewey, "Records: 'Janis Ian'," in Rolling Stone (by Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. © 1979; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Issue 287, March 22, 1979, p. 64.