February 22, 2009
One probably thought they knew what to expect from Jessica Simpson on her latest single, “Pray Out Loud,” simply by reading the title: The big-voiced former Christian pop singer was going to put forth her best Martina McBride imitation and sing for the rafters. It was going to be over-the-top, joyous, cheesy, uplifting and worthy of its name and oft-repeated chorus “pray out loud.” One may even, like me, have been planning on giving her permission to do so because if ever a song – and a time – was asking for it, it is this one. But, umm … no. On this single, Simpson shows … restraint. And a great deal of it. It’s completely baffling.
Simpson has never been a stellar interpreter of song, but the sheer lack of joy, enthusiasm and spirituality in her vocal is surprising. Simpson was more convincing inviting us to “come on over” than she is imploring us to “pray out loud.” Unfortunately, because the song is blessed with lyrics as original as “When you’re down / Don’t be afraid to pray out loud / Just close your eyes and let it out / Take all you fears and doubts / He’s listening right now / Don’t be afraid to pray out loud,” this severe lack of emotion is all that much more glaringly obvious.
It is likely that Simpson viewed this song as a means to connect with the same country demographic that propelled Carrie Underwood into stardom following the release of “Jesus Take the Wheel.” However, I’d be shocked if this single achieved a fraction of its predecessor’s success.
Songwriters: Jessica Simpson, Brett James, John Shanks
Listen: “Pray Out Loud”