It’s September, which means the unstoppable ‘how many shopping days till Christmas’ countdown is about to begin while incredulous customers bemoan the presence of festive gift wrap and greeting cards in the shops ‘ALREADY!’. To distract from this impending Christmas stress, we have some new music for you courtesy of today’s Singles of the Week column. Along with the long-awaited return of music royalty CÃ©line Dion and UK singer-songwriter Frank Turner’s new single, there’s also the lead track from record-breaking pop princess Katy Perry’s forthcoming album, Prism. However, while the anticipation around her comeback may be a little less than that of one Ms Dion, that doesn’t make Gabriella Cilmi’s new song any less noteworthy…
‘The Sting’ by Gabriella Cilmi
Review by Jeremy Williams
Gabriella Cilmi has had a bit of a tumultuous journey in terms of pop. Launched at just 16, Cilmi’s distinctive vocal and relaxed styling struck a chord with the world when she motioned that there was ‘nothing sweet about me’ back in 2008. While her dÃ©but album, the sweet but surprisingly honest Lessons To Be Learned, saw her innocent approach soar to the top of the charts globally, winning numerous awards in her home country of Australia, it appeared record executives wanted their girl-next-door to vamp it up for her 2010 sophomore, Ten. Gone was the soulful thinker, replaced by a sex-hungry disco kitten who graced the front cover of FHM topless and paraded around G-A-Y in an outlandish alien costume (the latter remembered fondly by the songstress, while the former she would rather forget). While there was more than a little merit in her sophomore effort, the shellshocked public could not adapt to her post-adolescent sexuality and Cilmi fell out of favour with her label.
Having opted out of releasing a standard covers album, Cilmi parted ways with her label and has instead opted to go it alone. Returning now at still just 21 years of age, Cilmi is determined to showcase her songwriting credentials and her distinctive vocals – the two elements that saw her soar in the first place. While her physical transformation into a pixie-like goddess is apparent in the video, it far from overrides the irresistible, instant appeal of comeback single ‘The Sting’.
‘The Sting’ is a major departure for Cilmi. It has none of the naive innocence of her teenage scribblings, nor the overt sexuality of her sophomore release, instead offering up a lyrically intelligent, soulful singalong. With the bee metaphor dominating the three and half minute lyrical charge, Cilmi demonstrates an understanding of pop nuances in both the curious lyrics and irresistible chorus.
Without the backing of a major label, many teenage stars simply disappear into obscurity. Cilmi’s returns proves that she was never a pop puppet and that music has always been in her heart.
‘Losing Days’ by Frank Turner
Reviewed by John Lucas
Frank Turner appears to be having a bit of a pre-mid-life crisis. On the third single from his fifth album, Tape Deck Heart, the 31-year old folk-rocker is in nostalgic mode, reflecting on the awkward moment when the live-fast-die-young party animal starts getting a bit too old and sensible for it all.
You can understand why he might be feeling a bit more grown-up than he’d imagined. These days he’s more likely to be found headlining Wembley Arena to a crowd of 12,000 or playing the main stage at Reading than to be braving the drunken bear pits and open mic nights that he would’ve been familiar with in his punk-rock twenties, when he fronted post-hardcore collective Million Dead. Maybe for a certain kind of artist, moving up to the stadiums and corporate gigs is the equivalent of taking that safe, well-paid middle management job instead of going to India to find yourself or chasing the acting dream. The rewards are plentiful, but you lose a bit of yourself in the process.
So he may be more housewives’ favourite than hell-raiser these days, but in his defence it’s a sound that suits him quite well. The jangly guitar sound is straight out of early, solo Morrissey mixed with Billy Bragg, and his lyrics are pithy and relatable, if not exactly revelatory. Somewhere, a disillusioned bank manager will hear this song on Radio 2 and resolve to get his first tattoo since The Wedding Present were the height of indie cred; but there’ll be a hell of a scene when his wife finds out.
‘Roar’ by Katy Perry
Reviewed by Sam Johnson
Katy Perry has delivered yet another anthemic pop delight with new release ‘Roar’, the first single from her upcoming album Prism. It seems Lady Gaga isn’t the only artist releasing their single early as ‘Roar’ has also been brought forward a week. It is perhaps not quite the ‘pop emergency’ that Gaga’s ‘Applause‘ was; Katy’s decision is supposedly based on overwhelming demand.
We can see why too. ‘Roar’ is a positive, self-empowerment song typical of the Katy Perry brand. It’s got all the spark of ‘Firework‘ matched with the feel-good energy of ‘Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)‘. Whilst we’re naming her previous singles, we must also say that ‘Roar’ thematically progresses from ‘Part Of Me‘, being another song shaking off all that Russell Brand business.
She eloquently describes her current situation this way: ‘Now I’m floating like a butterfly / Stinging like a bee I earned my stripes / I went from zero, to my own hero’. To put it negatively, we’d say it’s not much of a departure from the music we heard on Katy’s Teenage Dream album. However, the track is absolutely massive and Katy has never sounded better – at least she’s not slipped into electro-pop like every other pop star.
It’s all go for Team Katy at the moment, what with her impending gig as part of the iTunes festival, the ad for her fragrance Killer Queen doing the rounds and the official music video for ‘Roar’ due for release this Thursday (September 5). ‘Roar’ will certainly place Katy at the top of the charts again where ultimately she is destined to land with this song.
Download the single now from iTunes.
‘Loved Me Back to Life’ by CÃ©line Dion
Reviewed by Andy Hastings
Younger readers may be surprised to learn that CÃ©line Dion is more than a YouTube sensation, professional mother and Caesar’s Palace employee. Before her Las Vegas residency, the French Canadian chanteuse had a relatively successful music career (having sold an estimated 200 million albums) and is due to release her first English-language album in six years. Ladies and gentlemen, CÃ©line Dion is BACK BACK BACK.
‘Loved Me Back to Life’ is the title track and lead single from the ‘Un garÃ§on pas comme les autres (Ziggy)’ hitmaker’s 25th (!) studio album and promises an ‘edgy’ new sound for CÃ©line . The track finds her singing in a lower register than usual, over a skittering drum loop and synthesised strings. Her voice is so low in the mix and her pronunciation is so mangled that we’re not entirely sure what the song is about, but the lyrics were written by the ubiquitous Sia, so no doubt they were very expensive.
The track ultimately rolls past without making any kind of impact – there’s no melody to speak of and aside from very loudly singing of the title during the chorus, [tweetable]CÃ©line herself is surprisingly muted, buried beneath the ‘LOOK HOW CONTEMPORARY I AM’ production[/tweetable]. ‘Loved Me Back to Life’ sounds like the kind of song entirely constructed by an A&R team – chuck together the songwriter du jour and production team willing to employ every modern production technique and then turn the dial up to eleven. Then slap out the result as the lead single, regardless of what it really sounds like and whether it’s doing the artist in question any favours.
After a gap of seven years, you’d expect one of the most successful female artists of all time to come back with a track with more impact, but ‘Loved Me Back to Life’ is surprisingly anaemic and instantly forgettable. She’ll manage to shift enough copies of the album to keep the label happy – this is CÃ©line Dion, after all – but if this is the best she has to offer, her days of troubling the singles chart are long over. Sorry, CÃ©line .
The single will be available for download from Amazon from Wednesday.