Jewish penitence (Teshuva) is a bitch. Unlike the facile Christian counterparts, it involves five steps created to bring the sinner face-to-face with their mistake, recognize it in all its details, augment their behavior, and then recant. The first step (hakarát ha-chét'), is described by Rabbi David Blumenthal as, “an act of one's intelligence and moral conscience. It involves knowing that certain actions are sinful, recognizing such actions in oneself as more than just lapses of praxis, and analyzing one's motives for sin as deeply as one can.” Already the process is cognitively encumbering, but repentance shouldn’t be such an easy feat anyway. After all, I have a lower propensity to believe the veracity of a man’s faith when he repents 1,000 times a day as opposed to one who repents only 100 times a year through a solemn, individualized process.
But Lenny Kravitz isn’t Jewish. He’s not Jewish according to the Halakha and he’s not Jewish because of the way his new album Baptism employs the idea of rock as religious exoneration and an opportunity to explain, in the most boring, disappointing detail, how his dabbles in excess are a result of a grave emotional absence. While we’re at it, let’s dispatch with another myth: Lenny Kravitz is neither a very competent musician nor writer. That axe he dangles from his neck may as well be a prosthetic piece because there has been no hint--on this album and others--that he knows how to use it definitively. What do you have left? You should ask the 30-something year-old VH1 crowd, because those are the only people who will actually be plopping down the dough for this miserable waste of time.
Obviously I’ve never liked Lenny Kravitz ab ovo, but he seems to whet my intolerance of him with each new record. Say what you want about Thom Yorke, the guy’s got the goods and relegates his bitching to outside the music realm. But Kravitz has neither the goods nor the right to complain that he does, yet he avails himself of the greatest pulpit out there: music. When he sings, “I don’t want to be a star/Just want a Chevy and an old guitar” on the oh-so presciently titled ‘I don’t want to Be a Star,’ you just have to ask: what sort of pressures have you faced that would make you remand your spot in the glorious 3rd or 4th rung of rock stardom? The video for his first single ‘Where are We Runnin’ shows a Kravitz waking up in a drunken stupor at 4:30 in the afternoon with a few hookers only to be ushered to a private jet where he parties some more before performing at a concert. It sure makes me feel good to know that musician braggadocio is still alive and kicking after 80’s Hair Metal.
His problems and disillusionment with the industry may be real—even though I see nothing to evidence that he lived at the highest rock n’ roll mantle—but this kind of self-aggrandizement is atypical for former rock lushes. Maybe it’s because the guitar work sounds like something that came of and 80’s Casio Keyboard (double for the drums) or maybe it’s because he’s always brought rock closer and closer to the hilt of vapid unimportance, but he’s always seemed unworthy of the accolades. And on his latest release he attempts a revivalist flair so common with the unthinking lot of televangelists and snake oil salesmen. I may not be Jewish but I understand that personal exoneration will not be accomplished through such banal self-glorification and self-deprecation. Maybe he should start visiting the Synagogue of Truth instead of the Church of Rock.
Release date: May 18, 2004
Rating: 0.0 / 10
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