BetteBack September 1998: Bathhouse Betty Review

All Music
September 1998


This 12-song album tries to be all things to all Bette Midler fans: there’s high camp for her loyal, and early, drag cult (the sassy “I’m Beautiful,” the nostalgic “Ukulele Lady“); there are straight-up covers of big-league songwriters, both veteran and modern (Leonard Cohen and Ben Folds among them), for the critical clique; and there are big, bad ballads for the people who made her a moderately successful Top 40 and box office draw (“My One True Friend,” which does for One True Thing what “Wind Beneath My Wings” did for Beaches). Through all of this, Midler has somehow become a legend, and throughout Bathhouse Betty, she sings as if she truly is one. Only problem is that for all of its roots-returning and sappy serenading, it doesn’t have much of a personality. It’s almost like looking at a photo album filled with vaguely familiar faces, none of which you really know that well.

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