Melissa Etheridge, "Fearless Love"

70 Billboard Rating

Melissa Etheridge recently announced that she and her partner of nearly nine years had separated. But if domestic turmoil provided the backdrop to the making of Etheridge's new album, "Fearless Love" certainly doesn't sound like it. Produced with plenty of rock-radio muscle by her original guitarist, John Shanks, the 12-song set comes packed with the kind of room-rousing choruses Etheridge specialized in during her early-'90s commercial heyday. Several songs do allude to a souring relationship, including the opening title track and "Miss California," on which Etheridge observes, "The hand that's trying to hold me down is the one that I'm trying to hold." But even those boast shiny, feel-good melodies with little room for poor-me self-pity. As if to demonstrate her arena-sized aspirations, the song "The Wanting of You" offers up a fist-pumping blend of early Coldplay and latter-day Bon Jovi, while Natasha Bedingfield and Joss Stone show up for guest spots on "We Are the Ones," which rides an unlikely Indian-influenced groove. --Mikael Wood

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