Vulnerable and victorious, earnest yet evocative, Utah native Whitney McClain is a singer who's just as at ease with the struggle as she is the sweet side of love. Cultivating her affinity for music has been a lifelong pursuit, fueled by her eclectic influences (EW&F, Amy Winehouse and Beyonce, to name a few), an academic focus at the University of Texas in Austin and an uncle, Marlon McClain, well-acquainted with the rigors of the music biz (leader and guitarist of the 70s soul and rock band, Pleasure). Marlon’s executive production, the songwriting skills of Mauli B, and the bold and brassy vocals of Whitney combine winningly on her debut EP, Nothing To Lose.
Angst, obsession, an addiction to love and finding the strength to walk away: those are common themes that arise, but few artists approach them with the bittersweet bravado heard in Whitney's songs. "Heart Games" is the 'too-done, too-through' anthem, admitting raw emotions over a sparcely-adorned, finger-snapping pop groove even as she leaves dust in the rearview mirror ("Now you say, it's time for you to focus on you/that's one thing that you know how to do"). "Bombs Away" is so nostalgic that it feels like a Motown-era outtake, an Amy-esque kiss-off that transposes modern “independent woman" vibes over a track that feels like it was originated in the 60's: "All ya' gonna do is hurt me, you treat me like I deserve it....""
Whitney McCain is too talented to mire herself in one-note messages though: "Terminal Love" recalls the timeless "if loving you is wrong I don't want to be right" theme, even labeling her own desires as crazy but denying that she wants to be free of his clutches ("This straitjacket holds me like I wanna hold you, you've got me on some kinda lockdown...."). "Nothng Left" is a pretty ballad that slows the tempo, yet not the bluntness or bravery as Whitney throws in the towel and steps out of the ring from an up and down, now exhausting match.
Whitney McClain isn't a cookie-cutter, cutie-pie singer hoping to blend in. Although she might feel too strident in places for some, Nothing To Lose is an enjoyable, yet edgy, introduction to a performer who's determined to inspire both musically and artistically. Like it is with most true artists, the journey sounds just as essential as the destination. Recommended.
By Melody Charles