Courtney Love’s first album since the break-up of Hole – the ironically titled America’s Sweetheart – is an unexpected delight. While the postponed release date gave rise to speculation that Love had not written enough quality songs, America’s Sweetheart is solid throughout.

As usual, Love’s voice lends itself better to straight-ahead rock songs than to ballads, but her vocals have a maturity that she was never able to achieve in the past. Linda Perry, the woman responsible for penning much of Pink and Christina Aguilera’s most recent records, co-wrote nine of the 12 tracks on Courtney’s album, explaining the more radio-friendly sensibility. Unlike many pop albums where co-writers are actually the primary writers, the similarity of America’s Sweetheart to Celebrity Skin makes it clear that the majority of the material is Love’s own.

“I’ll Do Anything” is a dense, compact-sounding track with relentless momentum and an infectious melody. On “Mono,” the first single and opening track on the album, Love makes it clear that she is on a mission. Though bands are often touted as being the next thing to “save rock ‘n’ roll,” it’s rare to find an artist who actually thinks they’re he/she is going to do it. Despite her long absence from the music scene, Love seems to genuinely see herself as a kind of musical messiah. What’s even more surprising is Love’s ability to make her claim convincing as she confidently sings, “This is the part in the book that you wrote / Where I gotta come and save the day / Did you miss me?” By the end of the album, it’s hard not to answer “yes.”
[Eve Aston was kind not to mention Four Non-Blondes and that awesome “And I said heeeyy…” song.]