First Impressions: It's A Familliar Feeling With Natasha Bedingfield's Newest

Monday, December 13, 2010

cover art via Coverlandia
So you're probably thinking: Natasha Bedingfield has a new album?!? Rub the sleep from your eyes, please. It's called Strip Me, and it's her third set (fourth if you count the 2007 overseas release, N.B.)--so she pretty much knows what she's doing by now. While Strip Me is barely catching attention at the moment and has dropped during the "Dead December" release season, it's contents cannot be contained in a whisper.

Ever since 2005, I have been hooked on Bedingfield's style. Of all the other basic pop singers that seem to scream the loudest just to be heard, Bedingfield has always stuck to her pop guns and didn't try to buckle to trends. Sure she's mostly known for being the wholesome motivational coach in your head with (overplayed) hits like, "Pocketful of Sunshine" and "Unwritten", but I always tell people, there is more to Bedingfield than those signature tracks if you just read between the tracklist lines, as she's known for having filler that actually surpasses her hits. While most of Bedingfield's peers have slipped into trying to compete with the crowd, yet, like P!nk and Monica, Bedingfield knows her niche, and she knows that garnishing herself with trickery would cheapen what she's selling. Strip Me has Bedingfield testing electro-pop flavor additives, but she doesn't try to distract from her down-home soulful undertone, one that made her 2005 debut, Unwritten, such a delight. 

Okay, Strip Me isn't the best of albums. It doesn't expand on what Bedingfield has accomplished previously as there are the same notebook scribbles turned into reflective ballads, top-40 pop fodder, and hungry to be heard slush. On Strip Me, Bedingfield does maintain a sense of familiar. Familliar happens right off the bat with the opener, "Little Too Much" as it coasts on a "Then He Kissed Me" bassline. The Ryan Tedder produced, "Neon Nights" bounces along nonthreatening and sweetly, surprisingly not sounding like a clone of tracks he has done with Leona Lewis, Toni Braxton, and Kelly Clarkson prior. Maybe he switched to decaf? The wordplay on "No Mozart" feels right at home on Unwritten as does the meditative "Try".

When steering away from homegrown mid-tempos, Bedingfield kicks things up a tempo especially on the album's "buzz single", "Touch", which received a release earlier this year to surprising appeal. Coasting on the edge of 2010's electronic-pop craze, "Touch" is perfect in that it doesn't beat you over the head with it's sugary pop a la Kylie Minogue, it's just the right...well, "touch".



Danielle Brisebois (who pop culture junkies will remember her from being in the 1970's sitcom All In The Family and apart of the mid-90's group New Radicals), is back penning  tracks, as she did on Pocketful of Sunshine, and she brings that flavor back with "All I Need". A real energetic rock-pop number that gets some assistance from singer, Kevin Rudolf, and really shoots out of its canon. Itching to be a single is the standout, "Weightless", which coasts on a shower of piano and percussion, along with Bedingfield's charm.



The Kleerup assisted  "Break Thru" is a staggering electronic mid-tempo that feels original in form has surefire single potential. It's one of the best things featured on the album, and really gives an inkling that Bedingfield might try to continue down this path in future efforts.




Don't be fooled by the original album cover (where Natasha looks like she's auditioning for Jem & The Holograms' band, The Stingers), there is something tastefully done on this album. For high brow pop critics (if there ever is such a term) this album doesn't feel ambitious or complex, but for Bedingfield fans, this is what you'd want to hear as it's the sound that Bedingfield has calculated since day one, and it's still oh so fuzzy and warm. As someone who has been sort of disappointed with most of pop's output this year, Bedingfield's Strip Me, is just the right levels of spunk and heart and that's all the simplicity you need. 

Rating: 8.8/10
Release Date: December 7, 2010

4 comments:

  1. I picked this up over the weekend, but I haven't gotten to play it yet. I only need the last album, I own her debut and the HIGHLY underrated "N.B." I think when she gets the right producer to give her that oomph, she has some things to say ("Pirate Bones" from "N.B." evidencing that), but "Touch" was a refreshing twist from her.

    Great piece.-QH

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  2. Thanks! 'N.B.' IS highly underrated. I thought there were some great numbers on there like "Backyard" and "Not Givin' Up". The last one, 'Pocketful Of Sunshine' combines mostly songs from 'N.B.' and a few new ones. I recommend it if you want the complete Natasha "experience". :)

    It's kind of a shame those last two albums got swallowed by "Pocketful Of Sunshine", because I thought she had some better numbers that were just as single worthy. Since you enjoyed a lot of Natasha's output, you'll like 'Strip Me'. Let me know what you think when you give it a spin!

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  3. Thanks for the great review. I gave it a first spin and was initially frustrated at the lack of cohesiveness or concept (it being called Strip Me, I thought it would be either leaning towards acoustic or some sort of defined sound), so I threw it to the side and let it be. But something itched in me that I needed to give it another shot at the right time. Love is in the details, and the details you make reference to is what's given me new ears for it. Thanks for the good read and the nudge that came along with it. High 5!

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  4. Glad I gave you new ears! I wouldn't say it's her best album, but I admit I wasn't expecting much and it warmly surprised me. Yes, 'Strip Me' is a mis-leading title, but I liked how this record didn't try to be something that it wasn't. It didn't do too much, which is what a lot of singers are doing nowadays and it drowns out what they were good with to begin with. Let me know what you think the second time around!

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