Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Album Watch: Emeli Sandé Gives Her 'Version Of Events'
Note: I'm reblogging this from my original post at SoulBounce
It's no secret that the UK is notorious for churning out songstresses left and right who bring a certain something something to the music front, and for slow poke Americans like myself, we tend to sort of marvel at the other side of the pasture all while failing to water our own. It seemed the floodgates of across-the-pond female vocal talent opened and came in rapid abundance once Amy Winehouse touched down and from there we've taken notice and seen the likes of Corinne Bailey Rae, Leona Lewis, and current newcomer Rebecca Ferguson, pass on through, with Adele ruling the roost at the moment. Yet there is another Adele we should be tuning our ears too, and no it's not Adele's evil twin, more like Adele Emeli Sande, who now goes by Emeli Sandé -- for obvious reasons -- and who has touched down in a very promising way.
Sandé has a lot going for her. She's got a voice. She's got piano chops. She sports a viciously cool platinum coif. She has a songwriting resume that includes Cheryl Cole, Melanie Fiona, Alesha Dixon and Susan Boyle on it. Praise has also been put upon Sandé, as she was touted by surly X Factor judge Simon Cowell as his favorite songwriter at current. All those talents and praise are bundled and neatly packaged on Our Version of Events, Sandé's first official pitch out.
The introduction most received from Sandé opens up Our Version of Events and it's the deliciously superb "Heaven." This killer track seriously knocked the wind out of me when I first heard it, and it continues to do so. Unique amongst other Pop tracks, it's a power ballad that is extremely '90s in its climatic climbs and structure, but manages to be an exciting blend of what's thumping in the church pews and what Massive Attack achieved in 1991's Blue Lines lofty corners. It's clearly a song that rises to the occasion, and Sandé should be proud of it.
Speaking of the '90s, Sandé captures the spirit of intricate and melodramatic balladry of that era throughout Our Version and "Heaven" isn't the album's only virtue. Singles such as the sweeping percussive of "Daddy" and "Next To Me" in its terrific pop-rock piano urgency are a warm break from the blips and beeps of electronic funk, indie rock and anything that isn't lushly splashed out in the 21st century, and they are finely crafted tunes worthy of repeated listens. The tender touch of string laden "Mountains" and the quiet Gospel pulse of "My Kind of Love" are gems that further show off Sandé's strengths, as does "Suitcase" and the charming, single-ready, "Maybe." Our Version of Events does heavily feels like a debut by how carefully the edges have been buffed, but it's expected.
Storytelling is what Sandé does best as her stories of love and loss are confident and intimate enough to be wholly authentic as they do an expert job of finding kindredship within their wording -- and you feel each emotion as she sings with such conviction. Yet, nothing is more disappointing when a novel begins strongly and then meanders along till it ends on a pithy note. Drawn in you are by all the orchestral qualities, the way she poetically strings words, and the crystal vocal displays of Sandé's piano-pop confessionals, but by midway in, the album falls into a safety net, playing it way too sterile and stoic. Even when Alicia Keys (who is Sandé's music idol) pops up to pen "Hope," you kind of don't care anymore.
While "Heaven" and "Next To Me" are indicators of Sandé rebellion in style and ability to climb out of generic balladry, something -- possibly her record label's recommended career direction -- permits her quirks and her imagination from really roaming. In all of its beauty and "less is best" aesthetic, Our Version of Events dives into adult-contemporary monotony, and unless you're into that sort of thing, this album resembles plastic fruit -- pretty to look at, but you just can't sink your teeth into it.
Aside from this speedbump, Emeli Sandé does indeed carry the gift of voice, and her pen is the mightiest thing in songwriting right now. All of what she possesses is a hearty welcome due to the hunger for robust and talented voices, brought on simply by the loss of voices like Whitney Houston, whom Sandé shares stop-in-your-tracks vocality. Sandé's future is indeed promising, but all she just needs is a better album to really get her there
Release Date: June 5, 2012
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