Friday, October 30, 2009


With all the press around Michael Jackson's death and the release of the "This Is It" film, there must be a lot of people discovering Orianthi right now just as I am, since her participation in Jackson's band in the would-have-been-upcoming tour is drawing a lot of notice. How had I not heard of her before?

Playing for Michael Jackson is hardly a good sign for a guitarist, as his music isn't really rock and isn't particularly guitar-heavy. (Yes, I know who played the solo for "Beat It," but even so.) However, watching a few of her videos and listening to some of her songs, I'm impressed. She's got chops, and is versatile about style. Her own single, According To You, is well-played but pretty generic pop-rock, clearly aiming at the same audience as Avril Lavigne, but that's not a bad thing. It's a good song, and her playing skill certainly shows. But here's a short example of her doing something bluesy very well:

Stylistically very different from the pop-rock of the other song.

Some of her playing seems derivative of one or another influence. Her obligatory guitar-noodle instrumental, "Highly Strung," just screams Steve Vai -- which again is not a bad thing. Other stuff is reminiscent of Carlos Santana, about whom many people are torn -- he's widely regarded and yet sometimes decried as a one-trick pony, but even if you agree to that criticism (I don't particularly, but I see where it comes from), she clearly isn't a one-trick pony even when imitating him. And there's plenty of other influences that stand out.

But even if a lot of her work seems to echo one of a dozen other influences, her sheer mastery of the instrument and all those diverse styles is praiseworthy in itself, and suggests we can hope she'll also add her own style to the mix. She's certainly at the point where the music comes naturally enough that she's fertile ground for her own contributions to arise.

Some of the praise I've seen for her feels overblown:

But there's something to it. You can certainly see for her age she's quite the virtuoso and full of promise.

It's a pity she's also trying too hard to have the kind of look that'll put her on posters on the bedroom walls of fourteen-year-old boys everywhere, because she's more impressive when she's letting herself be herself, both as a guitarist and as eye-candy. You can see it sometimes when she's focusing enough on the guitar work to forget to try to be sexy too.

In any case she's definitely someone to watch. But I feel dumb to have not discovered her until the same time that a big news event's got lots of other people discovering her!

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