Music created for the pop charts can be stultifying. Sometimes it’s artificially peppy; sometimes it’s cloying and sentimental. All too often it wraps the listener in a cocoon of drum machines and synthesizers, closing off any breath of true emotion.
So it’s refreshing when a pop record, like Bad of the Heart, doesn’t do that. George LaMond, a Puerto Rican New Yorker, already has a Top 40 hit with this album’s title track. Other songs — ”Without You,” a whirling dance tune, or ”Passing Time,” a gentle ballad — seem poised for takeoff. But what’s most striking about LaMond’s debut is his sincerity. The melody and the tinkly instrumental ambience of ”Passing Time” could just as well have come from New Kids on the Block; LaMond, with his clear, unaffected tenor voice, sings the tune as if he means it and raises it to a higher plane.
Other songs sound more distinct. ”Without You” starts with a flurry of symphonic strings; ”Bad of the Heart” begins with women’s quiet voices, then explodes with bustling rhythm, highlighted by what sounds like an electronic imitation of the turntable scratching pioneered by rap deejays. These faster songs — spiced, sometimes, with hints of Latin percussion and with a taste of R&B in LaMond’s singing — reflect the fashionable flair of a busy city, but they never sound hard. Both tunes are about love gone bad; LaMond doesn’t seem angry. Instead, his voice sounds sad, suffused with tender regret.
The album does have derivative moments; a short passage in ”Who Needs Love” is remarkably like Bobby Brown’s rap in his hit ballad ”Roni.” But, taken as a whole, Bad of the Heart is a pleasant surprise. B