America's Sweetheart (album)

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For other uses of this term, see America's sweetheart (disambiguation).
America's Sweetheart
Studio album by Courtney Love
Released February 10, 2004
Recorded Spring 2003 at Studio Miraval in Le Val, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France[1]
Genre Alternative rock, punk rock
Length 46:39
Label Virgin
Producer Josh Abraham, James Barber, Matt Serletic
Courtney Love chronology
America's Sweetheart
(2004)
Died Blonde
(TBA)
Singles from America's Sweetheart
  1. "Mono"
    Released: February 16, 2004
  2. "Hold On to Me"
    Released: March 30, 2004

America's Sweetheart is the debut studio album by American alternative rock musician Courtney Love, released worldwide on February 10, 2004 by Virgin Records.[2] Her first official release after her former band Hole's break-up, the album's sound diverged significantly in musical and lyrical content to Hole's three previous studio albums: Pretty on the Inside (1991), Live Through This (1994) and Celebrity Skin (1998). The recording process of the album began in summer 2001 in Los Angeles, California, however, was affected drastically by a number of personal and legal issues by Love; including her drug problems, the disbandment of Hole, the controversy surrounding Nirvana's upcoming box set, and legal problems with various record labels. In spring 2003, Love traveled to southern France to re-record the album, however, according to Love, she "just wanted to be in a château for six months and do drugs."[3] The album had three main producers, one of whom, James Barber, was Love's partner at the time.

Following recording, America's Sweetheart was further delayed due to Virgin's excessive input on the album's mastering, art work and design, and track listing. Upon its release, it received little promotion, with the main source of media exposure being a music video for the album's first single, "Mono," and Love's highly publicised drug issues. Although received well amongst critics, America's Sweetheart was a commercial failure, selling little over 200,000 copies in the United States, and with Love further citing the album as "a mistake." In more recent years, both Love and producer Linda Perry have referred to the album as "le disaster"[4] and "ruined because [Love] was coked out,"[5] respectively. The album featured drumming from former Hole drummer Patty Schemel, as well as guest instrumentation and vocals from Emilie Autumn.

Background and history[edit]

Recording process and production[edit]

Though the original recordings for America's Sweetheart were made at a château in the south of France in 2003, the concept of Love's first solo album was conceived as early as 2001, when rough versions of songs later to appear on America's Sweetheart were being recorded. Critics who had heard the recordings referred to the tracks as "her best recordings yet."[6] Also around this time, Love began doing live performances, notably at both Ventura's Majestic Theater and the Hollywood Bowl in October 2001, at which early versions of songs (such as "But Julian, I'm A Little Bit Older Than You" and "All the Drugs") were performed.[7]

The recording sessions for the album featured Love working with producer Linda Perry and lyricist Bernie Taupin,[8] and amounted to a total of 32 songs,[9] including a cover of "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes.

Non-US versions of the album feature - though uncredited - Brody Dalle and Kim Deal on a different recording of "Sunset Strip" (with slightly altered lyrics), singing and playing guitar. Dalle claims she is also a co-writer of the song.

Record deal and controversy[edit]

In 2001, during rough recordings of the album, Love was rumoured to have been offered a deal by Interscope Records and the Universal Music Group that amounted to $18 million. However, recordings from the 2003 sessions were distributed to four different record labels after their completion. Although it seemed likely that Love was to sign with UK label Poptones, instead she signed to Virgin Records, who offered her a $20 million record deal. However, upon purchasing the album, Virgin demanded that the album be re-recorded so it would make their fiscal-year deadline of March 31. Love, who was in rehab for drug addiction at the time, was brought back and forth from her health center by Virgin Records and subsequently, her recovery from addiction did not improve and she became overwhelmed by compulsory work.[10] Aside from it all, Love later revealed to Rolling Stone that she "never saw a penny" from the advance that Virgin Records supposedly paid her for America's Sweetheart.

Also, amidst the several controversies surrounding America's Sweetheart's release, Love accused Virgin Records of putting the final product out before it was finished. According to her, the record company chose the songs, the cover, the recorded vocals and the final arrangements without her participation: "...I made five good songs. I had twelve songs, but they're not on the album. I had no creative control."[11] Furthermore, according to BMI and ASCAP's websites, four of the songs on the album ("But Julian I'm a Little Bit Older Than You", "Almost Golden" and both singles, "Mono" and "Hold on to Me") weren't officially registered for copyright collect. By late 2006, the legal status of all of them seemed to have been corrected.

Music and composition[edit]

Love, on various occasions, has stated her disappointment with the album. She demonstrated her extreme regret about the record in a September 2006 interview:

"The sound on America's Sweetheart sucked beyond words. The production was a nightmare. Linda and I had written some really good songs, but they were rendered lazily and sound like shit. The art was horrific and not my idea and the label didn't back it at all. I was busy taking drugs to dull the pain of having lost everything and made a shit album to boot [...] the producer didn't know what he was doing and he just spent my money. It almost had a moment of being Exile on Main Street - almost - but that's like almost winning a race. You either do or you do not. And in this case it's a delightfully written record in parts and sonically untenable with two of the most pretentious songs I have ever written. I was so druggy I thought it'd be cute to rip off "(Smells Like) Teen Spirit" on "I'll Do Anything." Believe it or not, "All the Drugs", "Sunset Strip", "Mono" and "But Julian..." are all good songs. They just were produced crap and the songs weren't taken further than demo status. The art still makes me seethe. At least make it look cool, and instead there's me as a Playboy pinup. I love Olivia's art but that was personal for me - not art for a record."

In the documentary The Return of Courtney Love, co-writer Linda Perry referred to America's Sweetheart by saying "a lot of heart went in to and it got ruined because her [Courtney] and her friend were coke'd out." In 2010, while addressing the Oxford Union, Love referred to the album as a "really crap record" and reasoned that drug issues were to blame for its content.[12]

In 2004, before the final production and release of the album, Love asked ex-Hole drummer Samantha Maloney to travel to France after drummer Patty Schemel left the album's recording sessions for a second time. After adding drum takes to the album, Maloney travelled back to the US and was put in charge of assembling Love's live band, which later became known as The Chelsea. After auditions, Maloney reconnected with guitarist Radio Sloan, found guitarist Lisa Leveridge, bassist Dvin Kirakosian,[13] and the four women formed the core of Love's backing band. Violinist Emilie Autumn later joined the band.[14]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 2.5/5 stars[15]
Spin 4/5 stars[16]
Drowned In Sound 9/10 stars[17]
Entertainment.ie 4/5 stars[18]
The Guardian 3/5 stars[19]
NME 3/5 stars[20]
Pitchfork Media (4.0/10)[21]
Robert Christgau A−[22]
Slant Magazine 2/5 stars[23]
Yahoo! Music 8/10 stars[24]

Upon its release, critical response to America's Sweetheart ranged from mixed to positive. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic stated that "since her solo debut is so sloppy and predictable [...] it suggests her music is more bluster than meaning" and that "[Love is] trying to snarl like it's 1994, yet wrapping herself in a glossy production from 1998 while relying on songs that are an amalgam of bad L.A. punk and bad L.A. metal."[15] Spin reacted more positively towards the album, referring to it as a "jaw-dropping act of artistic will",[16] and additionally, Drowned in Sound praised the album's pop sound, referring to it as "pop nous strangling choir-tainted punk rock"[17] and compared it to Marilyn Manson, The Rolling Stones and Annie Lennox amongst others. English newspaper The Guardian noted the lyrics as the strong point of the album calling them "hedonistic to the last" and "some of the boldest ever recorded."[19] NME also published a mixed review stating that the album "sounds slight and rather ragged" but "never less than compelling" and that "the production covers everything in a superficial glosshile."[20] Pitchfork Media reacted negatively to the album stating that "America's Sweetheart demonstrates a fairly monstrous decline in both quality and conviction" and that it was "retaining all the dated grunge crunch."[21] Similarly, Rolling Stone suggested that, "for people who enjoy watching celebrities fall apart, America's Sweetheart should be more fun than an Osbournes marathon." However, respected music reviewer Robert Christgau praised the album, saying that America's Sweetheart "delivers an album as invigorating in its contempt for rock professionalism as Neil Young's Tonight's the Night."[22]

Commercially, the album was considered a failure, selling only 86,000 worldwide in its first three months of release. As of 2006, it had sold only 130,000 copies in the United States and 250,000 copies worldwide. The first single taken from the album, "Mono", was released in February 2004 and the song experienced some radio airplay, peaking at number 18 in the Billboard charts and number 41 in the UK. The album's second single, "Hold on to Me", peaked at number 39 on the billboard Modern Rock Tracks, and was a minor hit in several countries.

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Mono"   Courtney Love, Linda Perry, Patty Schemel, Larry Schemel 3:39
2. "But Julian, I'm a Little Bit Older Than You"   Love, P. Schemel, L. Schemel 2:48
3. "Hold on to Me"   Love 3:45
4. "Sunset Strip"   Love, Perry, P. Schemel, Jerry Best 5:32
5. "All the Drugs"   Love, P. Schemel, Best, Chris Whitemyer 4:31
6. "Almost Golden"   Love, James Barber 3:25
7. "I'll Do Anything"   Love, Perry, P. Schemel, Best 3:01
8. "Uncool"   Love, Perry, P. Schemel, Best, Bernie Taupin 4:37
9. "Life Despite God"   Love, Perry, P. Schemel, Best 4:16
10. "Hello"   Love, Perry, P. Schemel, Best 3:10
11. "Zeplin Song"   Love, Perry, Samantha Maloney 2:48
12. "Never Gonna Be the Same"   Love, Perry, P. Schemel, Best 5:07
Total length:
46:39
Japanese[25] bonus track
No. Title Writer(s) Length
13. "Fly"   Love, Perry, P. Schemel, Best 2:43

Personnel[edit]

Musicians
  • Chris Whitemyer - additional instruments
  • Joe Gore - additional instruments
Technical personnel
Art and design

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (2004) Peak
Position
Billboard 200[26] 53
Australian ARIA Albums Chart[27] 40
Austrian Albums Chart[27] 62
French Albums Chart[27] 85
New Zealand RIANZ Albums Chart[27] 26
Swedish Albums Chart[27] 13
UK Albums Chart 56

References[edit]

  1. ^ "America's Sweetheart (2004) | Courtney-Love.org". courtney-love.org. Retrieved July 29, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Courtney Love: America's Sweetheart". Virgin Records. 2004. Retrieved July 29, 2011. 
  3. ^ Love, Courtney. "I just wanted to be in a château for six months and do drugs, so, I just wanted to do that." Extract from a transcription of an interview featured in Behind the Music: Courtney Love, broadcast on VH1 on June 24, 2010.
  4. ^ Forbes, Jim. "Courtney herself called the album 'le disaster.' It seemed her life was headed down the same path." Extract from a transcription of narration featured in Behind the Music: Courtney Love, broadcast on VH1 on June 24, 2010.
  5. ^ Perry, Linda. "A lot of heart went in to it and it got ruined because her and her friend were coked out. And that is the truth, that is a fact." Extract from a transcription of an interview featured in The Return of Courtney Love, broadcast on More4 in September 2006.
  6. ^ Access Hollywood report on Nirvana recordings and Courtney Love's upcoming release, 2002.
  7. ^ Hassler, Jenny. Holelive.com - The Ultimate Hole Trading Community || v 3.0 http://holelive.com/2001.html Retrieved from Holelive.com on May 18, 2010.
  8. ^ Spin Magazine - America's Sweetheart review
  9. ^ "Live through this". The Guardian. 2003-11-15. Retrieved 2012-09-12. 
  10. ^ Courtney Love: Did Virgin Records Use Her?
  11. ^ Rolling Stone, 2004: Queen Of The Damned
  12. ^ Love, Courtney. Courtney Love blasts UK music scene and slags off 'America's Sweetheart' during Oxford Union speech | News | NME.COM http://www.nme.com/news/hole/49737 Retrieved from NME.com on May 18, 2010.
  13. ^ "Dvin L. Kirakosian - Armeniapedia.org". Armeniapedia.org<!. Retrieved 2009-05-16. 
  14. ^ by IGN Music (2004-10-07). "IGN: Courtney Love & The Chelsea Tour". Music.ign.com. Archived from the original on 25 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-16. 
  15. ^ a b Stephen Thomas Erlewine (2004). "America's Sweetheart - Courtney Love | AllMusic". Allmusic. Retrieved August 9, 2011. 
  16. ^ a b Charles Aaron (2004). "Courtney Love, 'America's Sweetheart' (Virgin) | SPIN.com". Spin. Retrieved August 9, 2011. 
  17. ^ a b Peter White (February 2, 2004). "Courtney Love - America's Sweetheart / Releases / Releases // Drowned In Sound". Drowned In Sound. Retrieved August 9, 2011. 
  18. ^ Andrew Lynch (February 20, 2004). "Courtney Love - America's Sweetheart, Review by Andrew Lynch | Entertainment.ie - Ireland | Music, CD Reviews". Entertainment.ie. Retrieved August 9, 2011. 
  19. ^ a b Caroline Sullivan (February 6, 2004). "CD: Courtney Love, America's Sweetheart | Music | The Guardian". The Guardian. Retrieved August 9, 2011. 
  20. ^ a b Alex Needham (February 16, 2004). "NME Album Reviews - Love, Courtney : America's Sweetheart - NME.com". NME. Retrieved August 9, 2011. 
  21. ^ a b Amanda Petruisch (February 11, 2004). "Pitchfork: Album Reviews: Courtney Love: America's Sweetheart". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved August 9, 2011. 
  22. ^ a b Robert Christgau (2004). "Robert Christgau: CG: Courtney Love". Retrieved August 9, 2011. 
  23. ^ Sal Cinquemani (February 15, 2004). "Courtney Love: America's Sweetheart | Music | Slant Magazine". Slant Magazine. Retrieved August 9, 2011. 
  24. ^ Adam Webb (February 10, 2004). "Courtney Love America's Sweetheart Album Review". Yahoo! Music. Retrieved August 9, 2011. 
  25. ^ "America's Sweetheart Japan Bonus Track by Courtney Love @ ARTISTdirect.com - Shop, Listen, Download (Courtney Love)". Artist direct. Retrieved 2010-05-18. 
  26. ^ "America's Sweetheart - Courtney Love | Billboard.com". Billboard. February 28, 2004. Archived from the original on 29 July 2011. Retrieved August 9, 2011. 
  27. ^ a b c d e "irishcharts.com - Courtney Love - America's Sweetheart". Irish Charts. 2004. Retrieved August 9, 2011.