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Courtney Love 

America's Sweetheart (Virgin)

In an infamous live performance, ill-fated Sex Pistol Sid Vicious muttered and stumbled his way through an off-key version of Frank Sinatra's "My Way." The same aura of unraveling permeates Courtney Love's solo debut.

Gone are Love's glossy vocals from Celebrity Skin or the snarling anguish marking Live Through This; pitch-shaky screeches that err on the unlistenable side of sloppy ("The Plague," "Almost Golden") or half-asleep attempts at balladry ("Never Gonna Be the Same") abound. With contributions from Wayne Kramer, Kim Deal, Dio's Jerry Best, and Hole bandmates Patty Schemel and Samantha Maloney, Sweetheart's music fares better, from the shit-hot punk slasher "Mono" to the California-breezy power chime on "Sunset Strip."

But while admittedly clever lyrical turns flourish ("All tomorrow's parties/They have happened tonight," from the seedy exposé "Strip"), Love's self-referential tales of debauchery, foibles, and loss are constructed largely with the assistance of Linda Perry, über-scribe to Pink and Christina Aguilera. With so many external forces propping up Sweetheart's mediocre musicality, it's difficult to figure out whether its tales of pills and despair are Love's true confessions or a constructed persona that these enablers encouraged her to perpetuate.

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