15 Minutes ~ Barry Manilow (Review)

This is NOT your Mama’s Manilow!

Any preconceived notions and opinions that you may have about Barry Manilow and his music? Check them at the door before you listen to this cd.

15 Minutes is a concept album with the majority of the songs written by Manilow and lyricist Enoch Anderson. Only one, Wine Song, was written by Manilow and lyricist Adrienne Anderson.

He has done concept albums before (2:00 AM Paradise Cafe, Here At The Mayflower), but this is one with a linear progression… each song continuing the story started by the first song, until the story is completed (or started anew, depending on how you look at it) with the last song.

The story is a familiar one. Boy wants fame, boy gets fame, boy blows it and loses everything… boy starts over.

Familiar because we see it every day, We live in a time that seems to be the epitome of the old Andy Warhol quote from which Manilow derived the name of the cd,

“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”

Because of reality shows, almost anyone can experience being a celebrity and nor even necessarily have any discernible talent. (For a detailed list of reality programs from the past decade, just go HERE.)

This album is, in a lot of ways, a risk for Manilow. First, he’s stepped away from the safety net that was his partnership with Clive Davis/Arista Records and he’s started his own independent label, Stiletto Entertainment (branching off from the already established management/production company). Then he’s stepped away from the kind of music he is known for, anthemic, piano-driven ballads to guitar-driven, edgy, pop/rock without a single anthemic ballad (well, almost…) in the bunch.

The closest you get to the expected Manilow sound is Bring On Tomorrow, and it IS a ballad, but nowhere near anthemic such as earlier, classic Manilow ballads like Could It Be Magic or Weekend In New England. Do not mistake that as a negative comment, it’s not.

Bring On Tomorrow is a gorgeous song with a hopeful sentiment and it fits in perfectly with the idea of paying your dues, finally getting the big break and wanting to share all of it with the person who has stood by you through all of it.

Bring on tomorrow 
for me and for you
We’ve hung on through dark hours
dawn’s overdue
Bring on tomorrow
and show me the sun
We’ll live it together
’cause you are the one

The rest of the album is about as far removed from the classical Manilow style as the West Coast is from the East Coast.

Manilow not only steps outside of his comfort zone, but out of others’ comfort zones as well… as evidenced by some particularly nasty reviews that have little to do with critiquing the music and are more about personal attacks because, let’s face it, people get scared when their perceptions are altered and I can promise you, if you go into listening to this album with some notion that there can never be more to Manilow than that lame-ass ruffle-sleeved Copa jacket and Can’t Smile Without You… your perception is gonna be completely skewered!

Letter From A Fan/So Heavy, So High is blood-chillingly creepy and amazing at the same time! Nataly Dawn of Pomplamoose has such a unique and wonderful voice, but on this song… she’ll scare the wits out of you!

Remember I sent you a picture
I know all the names in your band
I was the girl wearing yellow down front
I was the first one to stand

It starts out all sweet and light, as I am sure most fan correspondence does. But what the fan sees and what the artist is living aren’t necessarily the same thing.

Too many scenes
and I’m losin’ the names
Silence and talk
Both feelin’ the same
All the same city
All the same night
Step over the bodies, boy
Turn out the light
Forever, whatever
What’s winning or losing
There’s nothing my money can’t buy
Too tired to sleep
Too wired to try
I’ll pass on the party
So heavy, so high

As time goes on, and he doesn’t respond to the fan who thinks he’s her soulmate… the entire tone changes from dreamy to nightmarish with a slight change in the arrangement and the following:

You never waved back at the airport
I covered your poster in mud
I cut out the eyes on the photo you signed
I wrote you a poem in blood…
I’m stupid to think I could matter
A loser pretending you’d care
To you I’m a nothing
I ought to be dead
But night after night
I’ll be there, I’ll be there, I’ll be there…

And… that is enough to make any celebrity with an overzealous fan run for hills and go into permanent hiding!
I also think the song would have been a great choice for a first single, but… it’s not my job to choose singles for Manilow, so…

There are so many truly great songs on this album (Work The Room, Now It’s For Real, He’s A Star, Who Needs You, Winner Go Down, Trainwreck and more), that it’s impossible for me to select just one as a favorite.

All I know for certain at this point is that this is my new favorite cd. Barry Manilow’s music and Enoch Anderson’s lyrics create an amazing story about what can sometimes happen when you look for fame.

Sometimes you find it, sometimes it’s not what you think it’s going to be, sometimes you completely blow it and, when you’re really lucky, you sometimes get a second chance,

My hope is that this brilliant album is given a fair hearing because it deserves it… and after 30+ years of being the critics’ whipping boy. so does Manilow!

But I think, when all is said and done… Everything’s Gonna Be Alright! 🙂