Sheryl Crow’s Wildflower is mind-boggling.

That is, it is full of simplistic, dismissive questions about religion; exhortations to “live it up” as if there’s no tomorrow; plaintive questions about her general bewilderment about spirituality and the afterlife; and lines that shrug off any idea of “sin” with assertions that “we were apes before we spoke of sin.” (And so we should revert back to apes, Sheryl? Is that what you want?)

In “Letter to God,” she seems open to the idea of God, but says she can’t seem to find any clue about what he wants, or what he is. Anxious about what will happen to her when she’s gone, she asks, “What if everyone is wrong?” Good question. Let me know where that leads you. What if someone is right?

But there’s never any sense that she’s actually engaged questions of faith in any serious fashion. There is no reference to the acutal claims of Christ. There are only dismissals of “the left and the right,” meaning she narrows the spiritual spectrum to the polarizing debate of political extremism. She seems to think that she’s out of options.

But if she abandons the search for God and just follows her own advice in the following song “Live It Up,” she’s not likely to find any answers, only fleeting moments of shallow pleasure. She assures us that there’s “no reason to worry” about tomorrow, because “all we have is today.” Well, so much for discovering hope or God.

To make things even more confounding, the next song finds her fed up with hearing about other people’s troubles and declaring, “I don’t want to know, cuz everything I know makes me feel so low.” I guess it sucks to be her. And she sums it up by asserting “All in all it’s natur’es poetry,/ I can’t understand the way it goes,/ so I don’t want to know.”

And yet, she asserts in “Always On Your Side” that she’s convinced this is not the way things were meant to be. “Meant?” If they were indeed meant to go a certain way, who meant them to? And how do you know that? Could it be you have a built in sense of the way things should be? Doesn’t that suggest that perhaps our current impulses are guiding us astray, instead of offering us salvation?

If you’re guessing that she includes a predictable shot at current events, you got it. In the final track, “Where Has All the Love Gone” she says, “Today I saw the flag roll by / On a wooden box / if it’s true, we’ve lost our way.” So, if a soldier dies, we’ve lost our way? Could it be the soldier gave his life as a sacrificial act, living by his ideals?

And yet she recommends selfless love and sings about her undying, unconditional love… qualities that are the farthest thing from ape behavior! Honey, for all of your pep talks about love, these recommendations that we “take off our halo” and just indulge ourselves aren’t going to get us anywhere but back to the fate of Babylon. Which is it? I suppose vowing your undying love for someone is no big risk if you plan to burn yourself out in a hurry.

So what view of the world are we left with? You can’t connect with God. Those who claim they do only want to drag you into conformity and unhappiness. But something’s not right… the love is gone. Even though there’s no such thing as a true moral vision, since we all came from apes, there’s still a nagging sense that things aren’t what they were “meant” to be. So we should show each other unconditional love… at least for a few hours, because we’re also supposed to party like it’s 1999, as if there’s no tomorrow.

My head hurts.

Only the occasional graceful fusion of voice and instruments saves Wildflower from being completely empty. Crow still sounds like a pop starlet at the beginning of her career, and these songs are typically slick and polished, ready-made radio favorites. Too bad they don’t amount to anything more than the typical seize-the-day pop anthems.

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