Even with heavy-metal genes, electronically enhanced vocals, and a fashion-punk backing band, Kelly Osbourne couldn't rock. Her debut disc, Shut Up, filled with powerless ballads and mild outbursts, stocks more bargain bins than Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath. Like Pink, another artist who turned in a stylistically unflattering inaugural release, Osbourne asked songwriter Linda Perry to revamp her approach. She responded with Sleeping in the Nothing, an encyclopedic collection of new-wave production touches. Like Madonna's early efforts, Sleeping requires its singer to do little except tunefully transport can't-miss hooks through a maze of synthesizers and hand claps.
When Osbourne sticks to this role, Sleeping delivers solid dance-pop numbers like the single "One Word." When she pads her part, the material becomes more interesting. She splits the refrain "secret lover boy" into three distinct parts, doing her best to make "lover" sound salacious and pronouncing "boy" in an incredulous tone. On "Don't Touch Me While I'm Sleeping," she goes vigilante on a date rapist, a tale she relates using an incongruous baby-doll delivery. "Edge of Your Atmosphere," an insanely perky ditty that borders on techno polka, proves Perry's surreal silliness isn't limited to her lyrics. Sleeping could become a camp classic, a far better fate than Shut Up's forgotten footnote status.