For a variety of reasons, I find myself fond of the music of a variety of artists who had a brief and slight degree of popularity and then for a variety of reasons never found themselves again in the public consciousness to the degree that their initial promise suggested they might deserve. I have already, in passing, mentioned Amanda Marshall as part of a group of people who were helped by a particular producer and songwriter in David Tyson, and part of a family of artists of limited popularity, and it is worth examining why this was the case for Amanda Marshall in particular. Although she had a much more successful Canadian career, her popularity in the United States rests on a single song, “Birmingham,” that is far from a full picture of the sort of work that she was responsible for, even if it was a highlight in her body of work.
One gets the feeling that Amanda Marshall’s reputation as an artist would have been vastly different depending on which song of hers would have been her big hit in the United States. Had “Let It Rain” been popular, she might have been thought of as a Christian contemporary artist. Had “Trust Me Baby (This Is Love)” been popular, she would have been thought of as an adult alternative creator of acoustic love songs. As it was, since “Birmingham” was popular, she was thought of as a sensitive singer-songwriter with a taste for message songs. This is not entirely incorrect, but she was definitely more than that. In Canada, all three of her albums had hits, perhaps in large part thanks to CanCon standards, but in the United States her career did not attract a great deal of attention.
Sadly, Amanda Marshall only has three albums to her credit as a whole, all of them made between 1995 and 2001. The first of those albums was her most popular, going diamond in Canada, but the other two albums were at least popular enough in Canada to be certified. For me, at least, the second album of Amanda Marshall, Tuesday’s Child, is almost as good as the first. Songs like “Why Don’t You Love Me?” “Believe In You” and “Love Lift Me” are quite enjoyable to me, and it’s a shame that none of them caught on in the United States to give her at least a couple of hits that people could remember.
The real problem seems to be the effects of her third album, called Everybody’s Got A Story, and what it meant for Marshall as an artist. Eschewing the girl with a guitar or piano music that had made her first two albums tonally consistent and generally enjoyable, she decided to spend an entire album wallowing in matters of identity politics, including quite a few songs that dwell over and over again on her biracial status and her concern about authenticity as someone who feels considerably black but can pass as white, something that comes up frequently on the album. Even though the saying go woke, go broke was not known at the time, the results were exactly as one would expect as her strident tone and focus on identity politics drove away most of her audience and also seems to have killed her own creativity to such an extent that she has never put out another album in the twenty years since that album was made. Sometimes the greatest enemy to our career longevity is ourselves.