Incense and polyester get stale after a while. Unless you’re Lenny Kravitz. His highly stylized brand of retro rock has always been a guilty pleasure, even though it’s been largely hit or miss, but with Baptism, Kravitz’s seventh album, it’s become sad and limp, like a wet, leftover noodle or a stash gone bad. He should just do a cover album and be done with it; after all, 1999’s “American Woman” is the best thing he’s done in years. What’s worse, Kravitz is out for redemption this time around, or maybe even a little absolution. Just listen to him whine—figuratively and literally—through “I Don’t Want To Be A Star,” which features one of the most irritating hooks ever put to CD (or should I say “tape”?), or the condescending “Flash,” in which he seemingly mocks his fellow red-carpeters for relishing the spotlight. There’s no salvation here, just self-righteousness and out-of-touchness. Kravitz dumps on the clichés (there are far too many to even give an example) with insufferable repetition, and the slow songs are just lazy rewrites of every ballad he (and John Lennon) has ever made. (“What Did I Do With My Life?” left me asking “What did I just do with my time?”) Ironically, for the self-proclaimed minister of rock n’ roll, Kravitz’s music is most interesting when there are splashes of the 21st century: 5‘s “Black Velveteen” and, now, “Minister Of Rock N’ Roll” and “Storm,” which finds Jay-Z coming out of retirement. Sadly, those moments are in the minority. Instead, we’re bombarded with woe-is-me drivel and classic rock posturing we’ve heard a thousand times before. For someone who doesn’t want to be a star, Kravitz sure as hell likes to name check all the legends he’s lit up with: Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan (even his indulgences are retro), and “The Other Side” finds him taking a pompous cue from Hova: “I’m internationally known/With platinum and gold/I’ve got millions sold.” Yeah, okay, so what’s your point, Lenny? Even your feelings are unoriginal.
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