Saturday, September 12, 2009

Album Review: Pixie Lott - Turn It Up (4.5/5)

I've been looking forward to Pixie Lott's eagerly anticipated first album for awhile now. She may be a pop artist, but I find something intriguing about her. Her voice embodies a powerful, soulfulness that just seems to lie absent in some of today's other female pop artists. After listening through the whole album, Lotts debut single and UK #1 hit, topping the chart for a week, "Mama Do (Uh Oh, Uh Oh)" doesn't do her voice justice, but did make for a fantastic pop song, which, Turn It Up, contains lots of. Her style reminds me a lot of Duffy, except way more contemporary pop than '60s sounding endeavors, I can also sight some Natasha Bedingfield influences on here.

Turn It Up, takes up the structure of the typical pop album--a couple mid-tempos, light urban influenced dance tracks and a couple ballads here and there--which hypothetically makes today's perfect pop album--but in the end I guess it boils down to consistency. The album reminds me a lot of Katy Perry's first One of the Boys, except a whole lot more solid and consistent. There maybe no "I Kissed A Girl" dubbed efforts, but the promiscuous opening track "Mama Do (Uh Oh, Uh Oh)" kinda comes close, a stomping, kinetic handclap fronted track with a lot of attitude, more about the swagger and less about vocals.

Next up is the albums first ballad "Cry Me Out" the kind of ballad I enjoyed as a child (2001-2003). It acquires a soulful composition, with a powerful chorus that shows off Lott's fantastic range as she pleads ("You'll have to cry me out, the tears that fall mean nothing at all, you'll have to get over yourself").

A real standout is the cold Natasha Bedingfield sounding "Gravity" which sounds like it could be a great third single. It's classic pop. Incorporating angelic piano keys, artificial drums and slightly tweaked vocal work, which builds up nicely towards the orchestrational part mostly fixed with layered violin sounds. I really like this a lot, the repition of ("Pulling me back, pulling me back, just like gravity") in the chorus, is great--I think it's the only part of the song where she sounds natural. "Band Aid," the albums most subdued number, it's great nostalgic pop, with light melodic soaring vocals in the chorus, which sounds really good. I like composed agglomeration of instruments: violins, handclaps and live drums (I think).

The title track, "Turn It Up" is another Natasha Bedingfield sounding number, it's a great lighthearted poppy number, the melody in the song is brilliant. The bells, drums and light synths really hold up the song well. When English people sing they sound American (exclude Kate Nash) so it's nice to hear Lott exaggerate her English accent on the last part of the chorus, where she sings ("Turn it up, turn it up for the people that say were moving on and we'll be ok"). Following swiftly is the current single "Boys and Girls" goes for that big sound, backed heavily with jaunty trumpets, drums and a strutting kinetic handclap, which makes up for the fantastic chorus. I love the lyric ("The boys and the girls, oh you just can't stop").

The highlight of the albums weaker second half is "Jack" a '60ish melody backed number--fixed with piano chords, drums, strings and a faint Coldplay styled electronic guitar running in the chorus. The passionate ballad "Nothing Compares" where Lott gives a terrific vocal performance with a soaring orchestration running behind her, it's really beautiful. The verses are made up of angelic piano keys, strings and drums before ascending into a more bold composition in the chorus. "My Love" is an acoustic pop venture, it could be seen as your typical Beyonce "Irreplaceable" or Chris Brown "With You" retread, but it still sounds pretty good. Admittedly, the chorus is noticeable powerful, thanks to the strong layers of Lott's vocals. The verses lay gently as their softened by recurrent entracing piano keys, bass and strings.

"Here We Go Again" is a bit of a slow burner, as it doesn't get interesting for me until the chorus hits, the static styled vocals don't work as well as it should. I quite like the sirens (at least that's what I think they are) at the beginning. Lott gives her most compelling vocal performance on "The Way the World Works" which adopts a distinctive motown sound, you can tell she's really into it and not just singing lyrics to a really nice backing track. I really love the runs in the chorus, they're almost Christina Aguilera (in her prime) reminiscent.

Towards the end of the album we find the softening "Hold Me In Your Arms" a nostalgic number, fueled with some R&B influences, but still mostly pop sounding. I don't like as much as the other tracks, but it's still a decent number. The album closes with an acoustic cover of Kings of Leon's hit "Use Somebody," she covers it beautifully as the acoustic guitar runs smoothly behind her softening voice. Turn It Up, is more of a solid debut than I would have ever imagined. A brilliant collection of slick, cohesive pop songs.

Best: Mama Do (Uh Oh, Uh Oh), Gravity, Jack, Boys and Girls, Cry Me Out, How the World Works, Band Aid, My Love


Paul said...

great review - i'm not a fan of the pixie (I prefer elves, ho ho) but she certainly has been getting a lot of write ups that are positive about her album!! I just can't connect with her, it happens sometimes and it means the musical output is then always a bit "meh" for me!

Ken said...

As I've said in my review, I don't think I see a generalised style for Pixie. We get that she's awesome and everything but her music is starting to become generic pop music. Although I admit that I can't stop playing this album, I might say it didn't tell a story of some sort. A story I expected from her debut album. GREAT REVIEW, BTW.!

Mel said...

J -- Incredible review. I've only had the chance to listen to the record once so far, and so far I'm liking what I'm hearing. She turns mediocre and cliched material into something special with that voice of hers. And you totally hit the nail on the head with the Natasha comparison. All I could think of when I heard her was Duffy but as I listened to the record I kept thinking this sounds so familiar, whyyyy? Haha! :)

Keep writing you're reviews, they always make me want to jump on the stick and write my own. :)

ww_adh said...

I'd like to sample more of her before buying this. The reviews have said it's pretty good (not wonderful), but that it doesn't sound like anything new. I liked "Mama Do" for awhile, but then got burned out on it.

J.Mensah said...

Paul - Thank You! :) and lol @ the elves. Funny enough, I've heard so many people address the same opinions you have about her, some of them think she's just... meh too. C'monn! there should be even an incy wincy chance she'll grow on you?

Ken - Thanks! =] I can't stop playing this album too. I agree there isn't a generalized styled for this album--I'm only guessing it's her debut so she wants to show she's versatile.

Mel - I love you! =] "She turns mediocre and cliched material into something special with that voice of hers." could not have put it better!

ww_adh - I'm sure you'll like it for the most part :) Is this out in the US already? or are you talking import?

ww_adh said...

Import of course. I doubt she'll ever show up over here.

Anonymous said...

I love her song "turn it Up" why she didn't release this song as her debut single?

Anonymous said...

Mama Do is ok but i think it is not a good choice to promote here in U.S.A