Veteran country music artist Jo Dee Messina released her self-titled debut album nearly twenty years ago in 1996. From there, she released her next two albums within two years of each other. Her fourth album Delicious Surprise took four years to be released from the date of her third album. Until now, that was the longest span of time that she had spent between new album. Nine years after the release of Delicious Surprise, Messina will finally release her fifth full length studio effort next Tuesday, March 18th. That album, simply titled Me, shows that even after nine years away, Messina still has plenty of fire underneath her. And she makes that statement in bold fashion with her album’s opener, ‘Not Dead Yet.’
‘Not Dead Yet’ can be summed up in one simple word. That word is anthemic. On the surface, this adrenaline fueled fist pumper could be argued to be a song steeped in the common theme of relationship issues. That argument could be made thanks to the song’s first verse, in which she sings, “You’re the one who stopped believin’/While I’m still in the chase/You’ve shattered my feelings/But you won’t shatter my faith.” But with the knowledge of her finally being released from a long-term contract in 2013, this song takes on a whole new meaning. It becomes more clear as she sings in the song’s chorus, “You can put me down/You can count me out/I’m not listening to you/I’ve paid my dues/Gotten bent and bruised/Walked a thousand miles in these shoes/I’m here/And I’m well/Felt the fire/I’ve been through hell/I’m a little out of breath/But baby/I’m not dead yet.” That sense of optimism and self-confidence is carried throughout the remainder of the song. And it is certain to have every fan singing along, pumping their fists in the air whether in their home, their car, or even at one of Messina’s concerts. The end result is a song that serves not just as entertainment, but a song that can reach so many listeners. It’s one of those motivating pieces that tells people it’s possible to get through even the most difficult times and to not give up. Considering how tough so many people have it right now, this song is a welcome motivator and equally perfect opener for Messina’s return.
‘Not Dead Yet’ is a perfect way to open Me. That’s thanks to the power in both its music and lyrics. Just as anthemic is ‘A Woman’s Rant.’ This “girl power” piece is one to which every one of Messina’s female fans will be able to relate. It’s the story of one woman’s day from start to finish, from the stresses of taking care of her family first thing in the morning all the way to balancing the everyday stresses of balancing being a wife and mom. It’s one part musical stand-up comedy act thanks to the wit and sarcasm in her writing, and one part social statement. The boldest of the social statements made in the song comes with Messina singing, “There’s so many things I can’t begin to understand/The differences there between a woman and a man/You see/Women they do twice the work/And get half the pay/Menthey climb the ladder while the women pave the way/They say that we’re the weaker sex/I have to disagree/I’d walk a mile in his shoes if he’d walk half a mile in these.” Even in her social statement about inequalities in employment, that wit shoes its face as she makes a joke about the combined pain of walking in heels and of being treated nowhere near the equal of men. It’s one of so many statements made over the course of the song’s three and a half minutes that makes this another of the best additions to Me.
Messina shows plenty of self-confidence and self-assuredness throughout both ‘Not Dead Yet’ and ‘A Woman’s Rant’ as should be clear by now. There is at least one more song on this record that displays that same positivity. That song is ‘Take It.’ As with the previously noted songs, Messina doesn’t mince any words here. She makes it clear right from the song’s opening verse that this is another song of self-empowerment, as she sings, “Look at me/I’m swinging from the chandelier, baby/I’m a woman with no fear/I’m breakin’ free/From these chains/From these chains that bind me/Anything that ties me down/I have no explanation/For the loss of hesitation/Lack of reservation.” The song’s solid country rock musical backing adds to the song’s power and makes it even more of another solid addition to the album.
The songs that were included on Me were chosen by Jo Dee Messina’s fans since the album as a whole was fan-funded via Kick Starter. As the songs noted in this review show, Messina’s fans made at least three very good choices. When audiences hear the album in its entirety, they will agree that her fans made far more good choices than could potentially be noted in just one sitting. The songs of self-empowerment and pride are just part of what fans will appreciate about Me. There are more emotional moments throughout the album, too. Between those more reserved moments and the high-adrenaline songs noted here, Me proves to be quite the impressive return for Jo Dee Messina. Audiences will be able to hear her perform those songs and plenty more when she hits the road beginning May 23rd in Biloxi, MS. Fans can find out where else she’ll be performing live online at http://www.facebook.com/jodeemessina and http://www.jodeemessina.com. Fans can also pre-order Me and keep up with all of the latest from Jo Dee Messina now via Messina’s official website. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.