Laura Nyro James Goodfriend - Essay

James Goodfriend

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

It has always been difficult to pin down exactly what it is that Nyro does (purely in terms of music and lyrics), and that is all to the good in the making of a pop star. Unlike so many of the rock singers and players, she evinces practically no Eastern influence in her music; it is American through and through, both white and black. There's a lot of blues in it—but one feels it didn't all come from the original source—and a great deal of Forties swing. Taken all together, with her somewhat lesser gift for words, her typical flights into the upper ranges of her voice, and the multi-voice backing choruses of her arrangements, there is a very individual and likable style. The problem is it doesn't go anywhere—except around again.

Because Laura Nyro as singer is tied to Laura Nyro as songwriter and Laura Nyro as arranger, everything she does, from [More Than a New Discovery] to [Christmas and the Beads of Sweat], falls into a small area defined by three fixed points. She writes the same two or three kinds of songs, she sings them in the two or three variations of her basic singing style, she arranges them in one of the two or three sorts of arrangements she can do. No one can take away from her the fact that she has talent and individuality, or that she has created excitement and enjoyed success. But she is a limited talent, a perfect, though hardly isolated, example of the kind of artist who is creating most of today's pop music. (p. 44)

James Goodfriend, "Limited Talents," in Stereo Review (copyright © 1971 by Ziff-Davis Publishing Company), Vol. 27, No. 1, July, 1971, pp. 44, 46.∗