Whitney Tai has a unique ability to make your heart stop and your stomach knot –the feeling you get just before you cry. You can’t listen to one of her songs without feeling, deeply. Which is why I have been following her for over three years, marveling at each new song she releases. During that time I have watched her talent grow and develop exponentially, as if some creative force inside her is unchained a little more with every song she delivers. That creative force is now in full cry with the release of “The Cure”.
Tai starts low and slow in a voice that is part seduction, part child, part scalpel, floating on a simple, heartbreaking piano riff with an ominous keyboard strum beneath it. She adds a soft tom-tom beat – a heartbeat, really – while she draws you in with the anxious, pleading lyrics – Why you always bringing me down While I push you up?– that mount in pain and power until they burst forth in full band mode – Don’t push me downDon’t bring me down she demands as the drums thunder, the guitar howls, and the piano pounds.
As the chorus moves on, a razor-sharp rock guitar note screams out, punctuating her demand as the song moves into hard rock territory and then comes back down to earth, to the child, to the seduction, to the scalpel. And you are drained.
“The Cure” feels like it condenses a lifetime of pain and determination into 3 minutes and 44 seconds of verse and determination. And it does. She can walk the cutting edge of pop and indie without sacrificing emotional honesty because of the pain of losing the one person who always encouraged her to pursue her creative passions. The pain is honest, the words come from within. That loss led to severe anxiety, depression and weight loss and desperation. But during this dark period, Tai learned to channel her feelings into songs, visual art, and poems in a life of performing
“The Cure” is a stunning work of both poetic and musical art that transcends anything she has done, which is considerable given Tai’s body of work. It also brings together her multiple skills in design. An architect by training and profession, everything she does — her costumes, makeup, photography, poetry, videos, and music, is done with powerful, impeccable design. Tai has always been the whole package, but with “The Cure” the package has become far more than the sum of her abilities. It is the sheerest form of musical art. As she sings in the chorus, Look at me now – when you do, what you see is one of our time’s superb musical talents.
“The Cure” belongs on your playlist and in your headphones.
Patrick O’Heffernan is co-host of the LA-based, nationally syndicated weekly program, Music FridayLive! and is a music reviewer for online magazines Vents, The Hollywood Progressive and MusicJunkie. He has also co-hosted a national political talk show, The Fairness Doctrine, and hosted the “Uplinks” media segment on Saturday All Things Considered on NPR. He holds a PhD in International Relations from MIT, has been awarded an Emmy, four Addy’s, and a Webby-Honors, among other awards. He has published 5 books and ghost-written others. A project he co-launched, the North Asia Nuclear Free Zone, was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. He serves on the Board of Netroots Nation.