I love Fefe Dobson‘s music. There, I said it. Wait. I say that all the time. Unashamed. Fefe Dobson‘s music is not a guilty pleasure for me, but, just a pleasure. A co-worker, back when I posted about this female rocker on Rock Chicks Rule!, said that Fefe Dobson was nothing more than a Rihanna rip-off. The opinion, I think, was based solely on Dobson‘s looks and her most popular single “Stuttering”. Rihanna is an R&B singer, while Fefe Dobson‘s music, despite the R&B-ish pop sound of “Stuttering”, blends pop, rock, alternative, punk, garage, etc. Dobson is rock chick, for sure, and she is, also, exactly like a line from one of her songs: “A little sugar, a little rage.”
First, let me borrow what I wrote on my other blog, with a few embellishments …
Fefe Dobson is a Canadian solo pop/rock singer/songwriter from Sarborough, Ontario. She was born Felicia Dobson on February 28, 1985. Dobson, who is mixed, was signed early on by Jive Records who wanted to develop her as a pop/R&B singer because of her race. However, she wanted to be a rock musician, so she refused. She cites Kurt Cobain, Jeff Buckley, Coldplay, and The Hives as influences, and listens to the Ramones, The Sex Pistols and My Chemical Romance! Eventually, she signed with Island/Def Jam and her successful self-titled debut was released in 2003, when she was 18. In 2006, Dobson finished recording her second album, Sunday Love, but, Island/Def Jam dropped her soon after, and the disc was shelved. The album was eventually released digitally in 2012. Dobson started to work on her third album, Joy, on her own after Sunday Love was shelved, but, was later re-signed by Island/Def Jam, who released the album in 2010, after nearly four years. Fefe Dobson, prior to 2013, has released three albums and ten singles (all with videos). In addition, her songs have been used in numerous films, TV series, ads, promos, etc, as well as covered by other artists. Dobson has also made several appearances in film and on TV, including appearing and performing as Tina Turner on the short-lived NBC TV series, American Dreams (2004) and, most recently, as herself on MuchMusic‘s Degrassi (2013) [which she’s forced to appear on by law since she’s Canadian]. Then, on August 6, 2013, “Legacy”, the first single from her upcoming fourth album Firebird was released. The second single, “In Better Hands”, was released on March 18, 2014. And, Fefe Dobson got engaged to America rapper Yelawolf in July 2013.
Fefe Dobson‘s debut album was her hardest rocking release taking inspiration from grunge, riot grrrl, and pop/punk; while Joy, with a cleaner pop sheen, was her most commercially successful. However, Sunday Love, overall, is my favorite of her first three albums. It’s an amazingly underrated collection of tuneful pop/rock gems in which Dobson collaborated with some of my favorite artists such as Kay Hanley [ex-Letters To Cleo], Nina Gordon [ex-Veruca Salt], Joan Jett, Courtney Love, and Rancid‘s Tim Armstrong. In an interview, Fefe Dobson said that she’d love to work with Billy Joe Armstrong from Green Day because “he mixes rock and pop and punk together and that’s what I’m trying to do.” I think she succeeded.
Next, allow me to share my best Fefe Dobson playlist (pre-2013) …
1. “Stuttering” [from Joy (2010)]. Dobson‘s most R&B-ish pop song is sarcastic barb tossed at a lover caught in a lie. I used to think the “Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, ey-ey-ey-ey-ey, oh-oh-oh-oh, woah” chorus was silly, but, Dobson‘s punk attitude changed my mind. Back in 1965, U.K. radio stations refused to play The Who‘s classic “My Generation” because they feared Roger Daltrey‘s stuttered vocals would offend people who stuttered. Those radio stations would self-destruct if they heard Dobson in “Stuttering”, especially in the song’s bridge! However, the context is clear, and her stuttering vocals are not meant to offend anyone other than bad liars. Just remember …
“It’s not a lie… if you believe it,” George Costanza
Oh, Fefe Dobson performed “Stuttering” on an episode of The CW‘s short-lived series Hellcats (2010-11). Watch her on that episode by clicking here.
2. “Watch Me Move” [from Joy (2010)]. “Watch Me Move” (co-written with Andrea Wasse of Canadian pop/rockers The Weekend), along with “I Want You”, were two digital buzz singles that preceded the release of Joy. Both songs are upbeat rockers inspired by the garage punk of Australia’s The Vines. “I Made Out with Your Boyfriend”, a bonus track from the iTunes deluxe edition of Joy, offers more of that gritty influence.
Oh, “Watch Me Move” was also used on Hellcats. Watch the Hellcats dance to the song by clicking here. Yes, I referenced that show twice in this post!
3. “I Want You” [from Joy (2010)]. “I Want You” is my favorite of the two Vines-esque digital singles despite the fact that it was over-used in the promos for actress Drew Barrymore‘s directorial debut Whip It (2009). The song’s guitar riff recalls The Who‘s 1965 classic “My Generation”. Yes, I referenced that song twice in this post! Watch the official video for “I Want You” here …
4. “Don’t Let It Go To Your Head” [from Sunday Love (2006/2012)]. “Don’t Let It Go To Your Head” was the first single released from Sunday Love before the album’s eventual cancellation. The song was covered by season six American Idol winner Jordin Sparks for her 2nd album Battlefield (2009) and by Norwegian all-girl pop/rockers Lilyjets for their debut album 3rd Floor (2006). It’s a great pop song. I like Sparks‘ R&B-ish version, but Dobson‘s original rocks. She sings it with a snotty punk snarl. I love how she whispers “you” when she sings the chorus a little softer after the bridge: “Just cuz I think of you in bed /Don’t let it go to your head!” Oh, and I love that Dobson‘s inability to commit is due entirely to the fact that the porcelain doll she once had broke. Oh, the horror! Watch the official video for “Don’t Let It Go To Your Head” here …
Fefe Dobson shows off her coolest punk look in this video [my favorite!] with those darkened eyes, those snarling red lips, and that messy black hair! She looks kind of like Brody Dalle circa 2003 if Dalle was… Canadian. See what I did there? I zigged when you thought I was gonna zag. Anyway, “Don’t Let It Go To Your Head” is my favorite of Dobson‘s singles, although …
5. “This Is My Life” [from Sunday Love (2006/2012)]. “This Is My Life” was the second, and final, single released from Sunday Love. Neither single charted and the album was shelved. Bastards. “This Is My Life” is a powerfully melodic mid-tempo rocker about making love work when you’re always saying goodbye. Sadly, no video was produced for this single. Bastards.
Sunday Love is an awesome album. Did I mention that? Fefe Dobson‘s debut was harder-edged, musically and lyrically; but, vocally, Dobson sounded like a teenage girl which, of course, she was. Her voice, on Sunday Love, is more mature. She sounds angry, and that emotion is reflected in the (suburban) punk look she adopted for the album’s promotion.
Now, here’s where this playlist gets really good – the non-singles!
6. “Scar” [from Sunday Love (2006/2012)]. “Scar” is a stunning blast of classic 70s power pop meets 90s alternative rock that sounds like a post-grunge version of Badfinger. I liked Fefe Dobson‘s hits before I download Sunday Love in 2012, but, after I did and heard “Scar”, I fell madly in love with every song she ever wrote! I love these lines, which Dobson sings with such sad resignation: “And when you told me / You don’t love me anymore / You don’t love me, anymore / You punched me out, you took me down.” Oh, and I love the melancholic lead guitar solo!
7. “Hole” [from Sunday Love (2006/2012)]. “Hole” was co-written with Kay Hanley [ex-Letters to Cleo] and that amazing woman’s influence is undeniable. “You can love me, you can lead me / But we’re only digging a hole,” Dobson sings in this track’s killer Hanley-esque hook. “And I know how it always ends,” Dobson sings the last line of the bridge, ending with a scream into an insanely melodic lead guitar solo! Yeah, another great (albeit brief) solo!
8. “The Initiator” [from Sunday Love (2006/2012)]. According to Wikipedia, Joan Jett was one of Fefe Dobson‘s co-writers on Sunday Love. However, Jett‘s name is nowhere to be found on any of the album’s fourteen tracks! I would’ve sworn that Jett was behind “The Initiator”, a very Jett-esque rocker. “He looks just about my age/ Baby face and long legs / A little sugar, a little rage,” Dobson sings, and I’m reminded of these lines from Jett‘s biggest hit: “I saw him dancing there by the record machine / I knew he must have been about seventeen.” Dobson even adds a very Jett-like “Ow!” after the bridge. In “The Initiator”, Dobson asserts her sexual independence, as any woman should have the right to do if they so choose without the stigma of being considered a slut. “Girls are taught not to make the first move / But when I’m in the mood / I’m the initiator …”, she declares, proudly. We [guys] made those rules… you [girls] should follow your own. Oh, and is it just me, or does Dobson sound like Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) when she says “alright” at the beginning of the song? It’s probably just me.
9. “Yeah Yeah Yeah” [from Sunday Love (2006/2012)]. “Yeah Yeah Yeah” is an awesome P!nk-esque pop/rocker. The chorus is a sarcastic retort to the excuses we [guys] give to you [girls] to get what we want [sex] or to avoid what we don’t want [a relationship] after we get what we want [sex]. “Yeah, yeah, yeah / Whatever,” she sings, with jaded apathy.
10. “In Your Touch” [from Joy (2010)]. “In Your Touch” is a heartfelt pop/country-ish ballad. Dobson abandons her deeper, commanding snarls and adopts a softer, more vulnerable voice on this track that is just waiting to be covered by the next up-and-coming female country singer looking for an instant hit ballad. “In Your Touch” is a testament to Dobson‘s versatility.
Joy‘s album cover, by the way, reflected Fefe Dobson‘s frustration.
11. “As A Blonde” [from Sunday Love (2006/2012)]. “As a Blonde” takes us right back to Dobson‘s snotty punk snarling as she wonders what life would be like if she were a blonde. She even ends the song with her best Johnny Rotten impression. Selene Gomez & the Scene covered this song on their debut album Kiss & Tell (2009). Gomez tries hard to be a snotty punk like Dobson, but, her Disney persona hangs over her like a big ball of sunshine.
Fefe Dobson also wrote the song “Start All Over” for Sunday Love. However, instead of recording it herself, she gave it to Disney star Miley Cyrus who recorded it, with Dobson on backing vocals, for her album Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus (2007). I mention this only because my daughter is on a renewed Hannah Montana kick and has been listening to her music, including “Start All Over”, endlessly; and, when I was working at home the other day, she ridiculed Dobson‘s music while I was listening to my playlist. Kind of ironic, isn’t it?
12. “Revolution Song” [from Fefe Dobson (2003)]. “Revolution Song”, with its Counting Crows-esque “na-na-na-na-na” chorus, is my favorite track, melodically, from Dobson‘s wonderful debut. The opening verse is sung with soft frailty, but, the song soon becomes a cigarette-lighter-waving anthem. The war she’s fighting is against her own teen angst.
13. “Give It Up” [from Fefe Dobson (2003)]. On the grungy, L7-esque “Give It Up”, Dobson goes full-on riot grrrl. The song is an empowering teen feminist rant: “Give it up, Give it up / That’s what they all say, say / Pressure from the boys to give it away / Suck it up, suck it up / Don’t treat me that way, way / My heart is gonna tell me when it’s time to play, Okay?”
14. “Get Over Me” [from Sunday Love (2006/2012)]. “Get Over Me” is a power ballad co-written by Grammy-winning songwriter Holly Knight, who has written or co-written ’80s classics like “Love is a Battlefield” [Pat Benatar], “The Warrior” [Scandal featuring Patty Smyth], and many more. In “Get Over Me”, Dobson plays the bad girl: “Just walk away / Anyone in love knows you deserve better than me.”
Note: Holly Knight also wrote the song “The Best” which was a big hit for Tina Turner in 1989. The song’s melody was recently used to great comedic effect in “That’s When You Break”, a new digital short made by Andy Samberg and Adam Sandler for the SNL 40th Anniversary Special.
15. “Man Meets Boy” [from Sunday Love (2006/2012)]. The acoustic-driven “Man Meets Boy” reminds me of Lenny Kravitz on his album Let Love Rule (1989). It’s a heartfelt song about helping a boy with an abusive father: “He can’t hurt you anymore / I am your friend / My love will be your cure.”
16. “Get You Off” [from Sunday Love (2006/2012)]. “Get You Off” was co-written with Nina Gordon [ex-Veruca Salt], and, like Kay Hanley on “Hole”, her influence is undeniable. I love these lines: “I feel you stepping on my wings / And I would do anything / To get you off / To get you off of my back.”
17. “Unforgiven” [from Fefe Dobson (2003)]. “Unforgiven” is Dobson‘s angriest and most personal track. It’s a darker alternative rocker whose biting lyrics are aimed at her father. He, apparently, was never there for her when she was growing up, and, in return, she offers: “But I want for you to know / You are, you are / Unforgiven!”
18. “Bye Bye Boyfriend” [from Fefe Dobson (2003)]. “Bye Bye Boyfriend”, the first single from Dobson‘s debut, is dark and angry, too; but, not quite as personal as “Unforgiven”. It’s just another dis to an ex-boyfriend. Sometimes I’ll switch this track out with the pop/punker “Stupid Little Love Song”, from the same album.
19. “Be Strong” [from Sunday Love (2006/2012)]. “Be Strong” is another heartfelt power ballad. This one took a while to grow on me for some reason, but, now, I love it. It was used on the soundtrack to the body-swapping romantic comedy It’s a Boy Girl Thing (2006). I haven’t see that movie despite the fact that it stars the always lovely Samaire Armstrong.
20. “8×10” [from Fefe Dobson (2003)]. “8×10” is the last track on Dobson‘s debut [if you don’t count the hidden track “Rainbow”]. “8×10” is a Beatles-esque ballad. Well, actually, it’s a very Oasis-esque ballad. “8×10” is Dobson‘s “Champagne Supernova”, only shorter. It’s a perfect closer.
You’ll notice that my playlist doesn’t include all of Fefe Dobson‘s released singles. “Take Me Away” [which sounds very much like Maroon 5] and “Everything” [which sounds like the Red Hot Chili Peppers in parts] from Fefe Dobson are good; but, I can do without “Don’t Go (Girls and Boys)”. I’m also not a big fan of the straight-up pop of “Ghost” and “Can’t Breathe” (feat. Orianthi) from Joy. I hate that I don’t really like “Can’t Breathe” because I love the guitar solo from the always wonderful Orianthi. Some other good non-singles include the previously-mentioned “Stupid Little Love Song” and “Rock It Till You Drop It” [featuring vocals from rapper Tone Lōc] from Fefe Dobson; “You Bitch”, “Didn’t See You Coming”, “I’m a Lady” (co-written with Andrea Wasse), and “Joy” from Joy; and “Miss Vicious” from Sunday Love. I’m sure my playlist will change after Firebird is released.