The worst thing for musicians seems to be success. Once they attain any, everyone -- from their fans to critics and from music business people to the artists themselves -- begins having unrealistic expectations. In the case of Moby, America's most prominent electronic artist but a once unlikely candidate to have any significant commercial success, the above is multiplied exponentially.
Moby has been under the gun since the release of his single "Go" in 1991. One of the most memorable and surprisingly emotional dance tracks ever, it evoked feeling as it shredded dance floors. From that moment on, it was all about the next bomb. Years later, the release of his ubiquitous Play in 1999 was met with two million in record sales. Then it became about the next multimillion seller, a goal that was partly fulfilled with the gold-certified, jingle-happy full-length 18.
Moby's latest album, Hotel, which extends over two discs (the second is titled Hotel Ambient), appears to be following its predecessors. Its first single, "Beautiful," is already being heard on the previews for the new season of America's Next Top Model.
As far as what fans might anticipate from Moby, it is obvious he isn't taking anything the outside world expects from him into consideration. Barely a dance record by any definition, Hotel is a middle-of-the-road, soft rock/New Age record. That does not by any means imply it is mundane, but rather that it is relatively safe and doesn't break any new ground. As a rock record, it is reasonably pleasant to listen to, not unlike a postmodern Olivia Newton-John album. You can hear Moby's monotone voice on practically every track. On more than half of them, www.moveon.org creative director Laura Dawn joins him. The Newton-John-ness can be attributed in part to her singing voice, particularly on "Dream About Me." You can also hear Moby playing all the instruments on Hotel, with the exception of the drums. As such, Hotel is virtually sample-free.
In contrast, Hotel Ambient doesn't subscribe to any of the above. Comprised of entirely different songs and completely unrelated to its companion disc, it is a charming collection of vocal-free soundscapes that are as soothing as they are unobtrusive.
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For hard-core electronic music lovers, Hotel probably won't cut it. For Moby's new enthusiasts, they won't notice the difference between Hotel and anything else he has done in recent years.