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Another Spin
A blog by Scott E. Shepherd · A continuing look at popular music, past, present and future.


Monday, April 24, 2006

More Than a "Legend"

Whenever I'm convinced that there's no good music being made anymore, I tend to check out at older acts to see if I missed something or someone. A lot of music comes out in one year, and while we may not appreciate it at the time, sometimes a song grabs our attention and we ignore it, only to be haunted by it years later. Such was the case with Imani Coppola's "Legend of a Cowgirl."

Initially, I resented "Cowgirl" - I was never a fan of "sampling" and Coppola's blatant use of Donovan's "Sunshine Superman" (one of my favorites by him) incensed me. Yet I couldn't deny that there was something about Coppola's use of this psychedelic classic in her own surreal daydream of feminine bravado that appealed to me - in some ways she almost enhanced it.

"Legend of a Cowgirl" managed to be Coppola's only hit of her debut album, Chupacabra, and perhaps because of this, or perhaps because she was only a sophomore in college when the album was released, Coppola fell into relative obscurity, becoming one of those dreaded "one-hit wonders."

Years later, when I found myself looking for some of my favorite songs of the '90's, I stumbled across "Legend of a Cowgirl," and I wondered if Coppola really was the flash-in-the-pan most one-hit wonders tend to be. After sampling a few other songs of Chupacabra, I was convinced - Coppola was a lost talent.

Chupacabra starts out with "I'm a Tree," a funky song about getting back to nature. Here too, Coppola samples, this time from the Doors' "Soul Kitchen," and I was suspicious that it was all she does, but aside from this and "Cowgirl," Chupacabra to the best of my knowledge, is 100% original.

What Coppola does is blend rap, hip-hop, funk, and even a little classic rock into some of the catchiest fun music ever heard. Her lyrics are both flippant and introspective at the same time. On "Karma and the Blizzard," Coppola raps, "Stranger gives a homeless man a ticket to Hawaii/Giving him an option to sleep on the streets or sleep on the beach." Or on "Soon," "Little tiny creatures with very big eyes/Extremely intellectual, despite their size/Holding in their heads the knowledge of the universe/And watching it for so long, and yes it's gotten worse."

Most one-hit wonders are so because their one song differs so much from the rest of their material. Such is not the case with Chupacabra - if you like "Legend of a Cowgirl" you should enjoy the rest of the album. There really aren't any bad songs, though the "hidden" track "My Day at the Ocean" may be a little too bizarre for more than one listen.

Imani Coppola's debut raises one question - why wasn't she bigger? Coppola released another album in 2004, Afrodite, in which she still blends several styles in her own unique way, but for some reason doesn't have the same fresh fun of Chupacabra. Perhaps having your music career stilted for seven years does that.

Chupacabra is good album to sit back and mellow out with - it's hard to imagine why it didn't do better. If like me, you get tired of hearing the same old same old, may I suggest picking up Chupacabra, and as Imani Coppola sings "Try it, you just might like it."
Posted at 3:48 pm ET