Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Album Review: "Our Version of Events" by Emeli Sandé

EMI UK has kindly shared a preview of Emeli Sandé’s new album, Our Version of Events. While I am grateful for the opportunity to review such a hyped record and artist, I’m not going to compromise my viewpoint. To be frank, I find this to be a lackluster album. Emeli’s voice and lyrics are gorgeous, but the production is far too simplistic. Many of the songs blend together and sound the same, topically and sonically. Looking at Emeli, you’d think the music would be as edgy and cool as her hair and clothes, and for many, her aesthetic will draw them to her music. With that said, a few songs did stick out from the rest of the blandness…

1.     My Kind of Love – This is the only song on the album solely written by Emeli, meaning that there are no co-writes. She’s presenting herself, melodically and lyrically, completely unadulterated. Emeli does so with the magical touches of Emile Hayne, the man who produced the majority of Lana Del Rey’s Born To Die. I wish that Emile had produced the rest of this record, inserting the layers of instrumentals, moody synths, and choral music that made Lana’s album so interesting.  On My Kind of Love, the drama of Emile’s intricate production enhances the power of Emeli’s voice and the mood she’s trying to create. 

2.     Clown – This is one of the few pure piano tracks that caught my attention. It’s very well written. It really feels like Emeli’s heart is in this song. You can hear it in the vibration of her voice, as well as in the up and down of the melody. I love the sad Clown metaphor (obviously, as I wrote a song called Clown over a year ago).

3.     Read All About It (Part III) – This is another piano track that stuck out. Emeli sounds like she’s about to cry as she sings, thereby immediately grabbing my heartstrings. I love the opening line, “You’ve got the words to change a nation, but you’re biting your tongue / You’ve spent a lifetime stuck in silence, afraid that you’ll say something wrong / If no one ever hears it, how we gonna learn your song? C’mon c’mon, c’mon.” I really relate to the words, as I imagine many will. At times we’ve all felt too shy to say/do something worthwhile. Unfortunately, as beautiful as the verses are, the chorus doesn’t soar to capitalize on the tension built within them. Melodically, this song could be GREAT, but it’s stuck somewhere between okay and good.

River, yet another piano ballad, has the same great verse structure as Next To Me, but with a chorus that’s not as catchy. Daddy sounds like a not-as-good version of Madonna’s Frozen. Heaven's production should be synthy and danceable, not instrumental. This brings me to my next point – this album has little variety. If you want to maintain a particular song-style, then make sure to have rich and varied production to compensate for the lack of diversity. Better yet, include some slow songs, some mid-tempos, and some dance tracks. Emeli is a fantastic vocalist and lyricist. She would sound utterly powerful cloaked in a Calvin Harris We Found Love sound-scape. 

While Emeli is quite a poet, I wish she wrote about more than just love. The only breaks from that subject are the following: 1) Hope, co-written with Alicia Keys, which is about our generation’s/society’s problems. It’s a pretty song, but nothing spectacular. Such a great message deserves a fantastic melody and production. 2) The aforementioned opening lines of Read All About It (Part III), but even that turns into what sounds like a love song.

If Emeli and EMI put together a re-release, I hope that they team up with a Calvin Harris-type so that Emeli can capitalize on all of her talent, and in doing so, entertain us with an emotional, heart wrenching dance number.  In fact, Emeli’s collaborators for her next album should be Emile Haynie and Calvin Harris/Benny Benassi/Junior Caldera, as well as Liam Howe and/or Greg Kurstin, both of whom enrich a piano foundation with lots of colorful and textural elements. I would love to hear Emeli make the most of her massive potential. She's got a lot to offer, and talent like hers does not come along every day.

Let us know what you think if/when you listen to the album!



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