Meredith Brooks's new Capitol Records album, Deconstruction, may be the most appropriately titled recording in recent months. Insightful and philosophic, the album deconstructs the tough-girl image Brooks cultivated on her 1997 hit single, "Bitch." New tracks like "Shout," "I Have Everything" and "Nobody's Home" reveal a heretofore unacknowledged side of Brooks' musical character, while her interpretation of the 1971 Melanie hit "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)" is a bold duet with hip-hop icon Queen Latifah. Despite its steely guitar textures and urban-oriented rhythms, Deconstruction is informed by a nurturing lyricism that is decidedly feminine.
Critics have applauded Brooks' audacity. The editors of Guitar Player magazine were so blown away by Deconstruction that they placed Brooks on the cover of a recent issue. Citing Brooks as a guitar hero for the new millennium, the magazine declared that "Meredith Brooks Is For Real!" - an effusive endorsement from a publication that boasts a predominately male readership.
Hailing from Oregon, Brooks began learning guitar when she inherited the instrument from her sister. At age 15, Brooks moved to Los Angeles to stake her claim as a rock guitarist. In 1989, she released an album with the Graces, a pop trio that included former Go-Gos singer and guitarist Charlotte Caffey. But it was her independent recording of "Bitch" that helped Brooks land a recording contract with Capitol Records. Her 1997 debut album, Blurring the Edges, sold over two million copies.
Now, Brooks is using her fame for the greater good. She recently launched a teen networking and support group called AMP (Anybody's Mentoring Program). The aim of the AMI program is two-fold: to encourage people to share their professional and work experiences with youth and to help high school students realize available resources for career guidance. As she explained to Hits magazine, Brooks has "always been drawn to working with teens. I had a women's group called 'Into the Solution' where we were all working on breaking through in our careers. One of the things we believed in was doing service work. When you think your life is so bad, and you reach out to others to do service work, it's amazing how you begin to see your life from a completely different perspective."
While money and materials are critical in supporting the growth of AMP, Brooks insists that the most important thing about any mentoring program is "People showing up." She enjoys speaking at high schools, and provided students at Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles a thrilling example of mentoring in action: The school's choir performs with Brooks and Queen Latifah on "Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)."
"My success is not financial or fame," she says. "I had to face things I thought I'd handled, and survived. My story is about somebody who's using her healing to help heal others."