Barbra Streisand won her fame as a musical star – in other words an interpretative singer. And so “Woman In Love” raises a thorny question: what happens to such a singer when what she has to interpret is gibberish? The brothers Gibb seem to have put together the song from a bunch of resonant phrases that they knew Streisand could really sell – “I am a woman in love!” “I stumble and all – but I give you my all!” – and then polyfilla’d them into place with some vaguely metaphysical cheese. You know you’re in trouble from the first line – “Life is a moment in space….”: Streisand, doing her best, makes this sound like she’s taking you into her confidence – which actually makes matters worse, because you’re focusing on the words, not letting them drift by you. And the words make her seem like a flake.
It’s a shame, because there’s a great song lurking in “Woman In Love” – the Gibbs know their way around a tune, and in spots things come together: on the “riiiiiiight to defend” line, for instance, it’s as stirring and showy as only a big-haired ballad can be, and the contrast with the weariness implied in “over and over again” is strong. But those moments, and Streisand’s soft-focus classiness, can’t quite distract me from there being nothing much to grip onto in “Woman In Love” – it’s a melody and a performer in futile search for a point.