What's Left of Me

Studio Album by released in 2006

What's Left of Me review

Lachey resumed his recording career in spring 2006

As the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC redefined pop music for the masses upon the closing of the 1990s, 98 Degrees were also making girls scream and swoon with their darling good looks and delightsome harmonies. Fronting the vocal group was the svelte charmer Nick Lachey. This onetime sports medicine major was a bona fide star thanks to his sensitive performance style, and a career in Hollywood seemed destined for Lachey. The band went on to release four albums (all of which went platinum), and several 98 Degrees’s singles became chart and radio favorites across North America. Just as the boy band phenomenon began winding down somewhat, Lachey felt it was time to focus on other artistic ventures. The second tenor married his longtime girlfriend, singer Jessica Simpson, in fall 2002. He and Simpson instantly became A-list celebrities when their MTV-based reality show, Newlyweds, captured American audiences in 2003. While their show was still going strong, Lachey issued his first solo work, the R&B/pop-flavored album SoulO. In 2005 Lachey and Simpson announced their separation. In the midst of a tabloid field day, Lachey resumed his recording career in spring 2006 with the release of his second album, What's Left of Me.

The breakup has finally given Nick something to actually sing about

It was probably inevitable that the recent ugly divorce between Jessica and Nick would spill into their music. However, it was a bit surprising that it happened so soon. Divorce papers were signed in December, 2005, and by February, 2006, Lachey's single What's Left of Me began telling his story. But getting dumped by Jessica Simpson is the best thing that ever happened to Nick Lachey. The breakup has finally given the former 98 Degrees star something to actually sing about. The disc – a somber, soulful, angsty collection of 12 ballads – is a slickly produced, raw-nerved confessional of his heartbreak and an open letter to Simpson. It is heavy on catchy, power-pop numbers with an emphasis on strummy rock guitars. In Shades of Blue, one of the album's best tracks, Lachey, who co-wrote the bulk of the songs, pines for a lost love, foolishly awaiting her return. But he takes an angrier tone in I Do it For You, expressing his wish to see her "bleed and see how it feels. Realizing that he must move on, the title track has Lachey telling a potential lover to make him "whole once again." His brooding songs, sung in a clear tenor, span different stages of grief, sometimes within the same track – there's resentment, regret and acceptance in I Can't Hate You Anymore – until he reaches his Resolution, pledging his commitment to let go.

Vocally, Lachey has never sounded better, stronger and seemingly more elastic

Lachey's much-publicized split from Jessica Simpson has released an avalanche of media speculation, rife with rumors of infidelity and other marital woes. But sometimes, the best artistic efforts come out of unhappy circumstances. Just as Gary Allan's latest country album Tough All Over – recorded after his wife committed suicide – took him to new heights, Nick Lachey post-Jessica reveals an artistic depth never hinted at in his previous work with 98 Degrees and the solo album Soul-O. Vocally, Lachey has never sounded better, stronger and seemingly more elastic – his rich tenor rising to a surprisingly effective falsetto on the plaintive I Can't Hate You Anymore – reminding listeners why he was the headline act before he married the buxom blonde. Set to a pop soundtrack, his pain becomes palpable, raw, universal. His pain becomes ours. Those looking for Sunshine, Lollipops, and boyband Rainbows should probably stay away from What's Left of Me, but anyone looking for a finely crafted, cathartic look at a failed relationship and its aftermath will find this to be a rewarding listening experience. Although he endlessly exploits his relationship with Simpson, the material gives Lachey his best album yet.