Joan Armatrading Georgia Christgau - Essay

Georgia Christgau

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Armatrading's recent album, Show Some Emotion, revealed an evolving star in touch with herself…. (p. 59)

Armatrading has rocked out, or tried to, since the release of her first record five years ago. Whatever's for Us, a collaboration with composer Pam Nestor, is one of her best…. Songs about city girls and deranged women, international relations resolved with manna from heaven, the sea's big fish. I love it.

Two subsequent albums are more oblique, personal. The music seems more funky, but in transition. That she was writing more than her share of songs about quick men, that she wound up separating independence and freedom from sexual love, only means that she was rising fast in a man's world and didn't know what to do with the needs that she, as a woman, brought to it. (pp. 59-60)

The first breath of fresh air I felt from Show Some Emotion was "Woncha Come On Home."… The story is an ordinary one about missing a roommate, but textured with a funny, tough edge: No matter how much she misses the roommate, she still makes sure all the doors are locked when she spies a scary shadow in the alley. Her paranoia doesn't make her love less sincere; both emotions coexist for women at home alone. After that one hit me, "Opportunity," "Mama Mercy," "Never Is Too Late," and "Willow" quickly followed. Here was a woman capable of believing her own good fortune, a woman who had arrived at a commercial sound … with her personal vision intact. (p. 60)

Georgia Christgau, "Joan Armatrading Shows Some Results," in The Village Voice (reprinted by permission of The Village Voice and the author; copyright © The Village Voice, Inc., 1977), Vol. XXII, No. 47, November 21, 1977, pp. 59-60.