Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Linda Ronstadt: What's New [Asylum, 1983]
Especially given the rich little rich girl's South African connection, I ignored this airless atrocity--lots of bad records sell, and parents do need X-mas gifts. But when it scored in my own critics' poll I could remain silent no longer. Forget phrasing, interpretation, or--God knows from someone who had trouble rocking "Heat Wave"--swing. All Ronstadt does with these fine-to-middling pop standards is stifle them beneath her moderately gorgeous voice. Her triumph is conceptual--genteel neoconservatives, kneejerk pluralists, one-upping convolutionists, and out-and-out ignoramuses all get off on the idea of a "rock" performer validating the prerock values such songs signal. And may every one of them wear a tie, a garter belt, or both for the rest of their shrinking lives. C-