Whatever We Wanna, by LeAnn Rimes
One of the advantages of doing retrospectives of an artist’s entire discography is that one finds albums like this one, which regardless of their musical quality ask fascinating questions about what an artist and a label was trying to accomplish. In 2006, while the singles from her return to form country album “This Woman” were still charting and the album was still selling well, LeAnn Rimes was already recording a pop-rock album “Whatever We Wanna,” which was released a mere year and a half after “This Woman.” Even more oddly, while this album was released and promoted overseas, it was not until 2021 when this album was released in the United States in a deluxe edition that added remixes to three of the album’s songs, all the more mysterious because the album has never been promoted and LeAnn Rimes herself lacks any sort of mainstream pop success in the present day, mostly contenting herself with releasing Christian-themed music that aims at the faithful and not the pop charts. Why was this album made at all, and having been made, why did its release in the United States wait so long that all of the commercial value of the album was lost? We may never know the answers to questions like these, but how is the music, at any rate? That we can determine, at least.
The album opens with “Satisfied,” which offers some self-reflection about the singer’s inability to be satisfied set to a driving beat for a song that should have been a hit. “And It Feels Like” provides melancholy lyrics and a tense and anxious instrumental production. “For The First Time” provides a gorgeous power ballad about finding love, one that would seem to welcome a larger audience than it has yet received. “Save Myself” is a spare ballad combined with the quirky pop production of the time and a message of not wanting to save oneself but rather live and love and dare to risk. “A Little More Time” offers a heartfelt ode to her efforts to appear strong and overcome her anxiety and worry. “Rumor ‘Bout A Revolution” provides a gorgeous reflection of dissatisfaction but also honesty about the state of affairs that if it is not exactly revolutionary, is at least an enjoyable mid-tempo message song. “Destructive” follows this with a self-fulfilling prophecy about the self-destructive attitude the singer had that would soon wreck her married life and career as a pop artist. “Strong” offers a gorgeous but reflective discussion of the strength needed to overcome the suffering and pain of life. “Whatever We Wanna” offers a celebration of the artist’s ability to do whatever crazy thing she wanted to do with her partner. “Everybody’s Someone,” a duet with Bryan McFadden, offers a beautiful universalistic ballad of love and belonging. “Headphones” offers a beautiful and quirky song of love and devotion that expresses the strength of Rimes’ attraction to the song’s subject. “Long Night” offers a mid-tempo nervously energetic song about the desire to find an escape from life’s pressures through love. “This Life” offers a melodramatic love ballad that expresses the singer’s commitment to her twisted and complicated life and the love that came with it. “Break Me Down” encourages the singer’s partner to break her down if he chooses and expresses her willingness to seek a whirlwind romance. “Some People” shows the singer reflecting on the luckiness of her loving relationship. The album then ends with three remixes, two of them, “Strong,” and “And It Feels” like playing up the dance remix angle and the other one, “Headphones,” more of a dance radio remix.
Having listened to this album, it is not an exaggeration to say that this is my favorite LeAnn Rimes album that I have listened to so far and I am only sad that it is by far her most obscure album from her peak period of creativity. It is hard not to listen to this album and not see this as a more pleasing and melodic continuation of where Rimes was at in her “Twisted Angel” period. To the extent that Rimes was singing autobiographically–which seems likely–it appears that she felt herself under a great deal of pressure and sought an escape from that pressure in a heedless rush into self-destructive affairs and even self-medication (pills and alcohol are at least referred to in the album’s lyrics). Yet whatever insight listeners may have gained into where LeAnn Rimes was at even as she enjoyed a career renaissance in the mid 2000s was kneecapped by the fact that the album was not released for fifteen years and remains largely unexplored even now. This is an album whose production indicates that it was meant for mass market appeal, and here’s hoping it reaches an appreciative audience, albeit belatedly, as it’s an album that would benefit richly from 2000s nostalgia.