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Wednesday 14 April 2010

Music review: Gabriella Cilmi's Ten

Posted in: Music
By Andy G - 28th March 2010

It is no surprise or secret that pop music follows fairly distinct trends.  In 1996 The Spice Girls released Wannabe and suddenly you couldn’t move for all the five piece girl bands.  1999 saw Britney Spears debut followed by a bevy of bright eyed blonde starlets peddling their wares (musical or otherwise).   2006 saw Amy Winehouse saying no no no to rehab and we all suddenly regressed back into the 60s.  In the wake of that, 17-year-old Gabriella Cilmi released her debut single Sweet About Me and subsequent album Lessons To Be Learned.


Unfortunately the extraordinary amount of attention the single got did not translate into album sales and so it seems a rethink was in order for her second effort Ten.  Cilmi certainly proves this time that she is more than adept at following trends as she jumps well and truly on the 80s synth-pop revival bandwagon.  


First single On A Mission couldn’t be a more radical departure from her earlier work if it tried.  Filled with wall to wall synths and a mammoth chorus and accompanied by a video to which the description “camp” is an understatement, it treads dangerously close to being cringe-worthy.   What rescues it is Cilmi herself, who has a voice far more mature than you’d expect from someone her age and sounds as though she’s having an absolute blast. 


What follows is a strong and extremely polished album that for the most part is firmly rooted in the 80s.  Hearts Don’t Lie is a pulsing disco number with stuttering almost sultry verses and a stereotypically big Xenomania chorus.  Love Me Cos You Want To has Cilmi floating across heavy synths marrying euphoria with melancholy all in the same track and Superhot has shades of Savage Garden’s I Want You to it.


The only place the album goes wrong is where Cilmi seems to be unable to let go of the Winehouse retro-pop of her first album.  Let Me Know with its gospel choir backed chorus and the finger clicking jaunt of Sucker For Love don’t really seem to fit in with anything else.   Cilmi even reworks her signature hit Sweet About Me as an 80s dance number and tacks it on the end as a needless reminder of what initially made her famous.


Considering the drastic style shift between her two albums, it’s not entirely obvious where Cilmi sits as an artist or where she is going to go next.  At only 18 it’s possible even she doesn’t have a clue yet.  Though as long as she keeps putting out albums as good as this one and her voice doesn’t lose any of its punch then no one should mind joining the ride while she finds out.

Andy G - 28th March 2010

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