Release Date: Jun 5, 2012
Record label: EMI
More than a few U.S. viewers who watched Danny Boyle’s opening ceremonies for the London 2012 Olympics may have come away with some misconceptions about the congruence between U.S. and UK pop culture. Despite the inclusion of a few acts that never hit the U.S. charts — for instance, glam ….
In 2012, Brit's Critic Choice Award, a best new artist prize for the United Kingdom's best talent, unsurprisingly went to Emeli Sandé, a woman being lauded for her crystalline voice and her immaculate songwriting skills. By the time her debut album, Our Version of Events, hit shelves, Sandé had already been a number one-selling singer and songwriter, and had her work covered by names such as Tinchy Stryder, Alesha Dixon, and Susan Boyle. Many call the 24-year old starlet a jack-of-all-trades, and after listening to her first full-length debut, it's easy to understand why.
Recently, there has been much heated discussion about entitlement in pop: the Brit School students fast-tracked into the charts with no thought to the paying of dues; the indie bands packed with wealthy public school kids crowding out the market for the 93% of the population who didn't. Whatever you make of all that, it's nice to report on a career that, even in its early stages, genuinely represents a victory against the odds. Which brings us to Emeli Sandé, who has managed to get herself taken seriously as a singer-songwriter despite the mortal blow dealt to her in 2011 when Simon Cowell announced her to be his favourite songwriter.
Pop has a curious way of repeating itself in 20-year cycles. In 2011, for example, Glaswegian singer-songwriter Emeli Sandé released ‘Heaven’, a song that didn’t so much borrow the template from Massive Attack’s ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ as lift it wholesale. It did produce a great pop song, though, and this is the crux of Sandé’s debut.
Review Summary: Liked the singles? This probably isn't for you.What a weird album, given the context of "Heaven" being the first single. That track may have been a little mushy and flimsy at heart, but it was elevated into something special by its genuinely pained melody and its quasi-trip-hop, "Unfinished Sympathy"-aping production. It's a song where the virtues outweigh the vices so comprehensively that those vices become irrelevant.
Not all that many half-Zambian Scottish former neuroscience students work in pop music, let alone win the critics' choice Brit award. Even fewer declare Virginia Woolf as an influence and fewer still have a giant tattoo of Frida Kahlo down one arm. There is such a great deal to commend singer Emeli Sandé. If her peroxide quiff stands visually for Sandé's unconventionality, the title of her album, Our Version of Events, promises perspective, too.
If there is one thing that endures in music, it is the appetite for soulful, straightforward, no-frills female singer-songwriters with huge voices. Given the recent loss of Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston, this void is bigger than ever. However, while Adele is being groomed to inherit this place in the pop kingdom, she faces stiff competition from some amazing young talent emerging out of the UK.
The opening track on Emeli Sandé's debut release, Our Version of Events, sets the stage for Sandé's honest R&B/soul sound. Many of the tracks on the project sound like they were heavily influenced by the late '90s UK electronic/soul sound, while others have an earthy, folksy R&B/pop vibe. Collectively, they make for an intriguing yet imperfect debut.
The story of the recent British soul revival is the story of ghosts. Artists like Adele and Amy Winehouse succeeded as much because of the memories they conjured with their reference points as because of their talent. They had the familiarity of yesteryear on their sides. And given that they summoned styles dating back to Motown girl groups and Dusty Springfield, they had a lot of peoples’ yesteryears in their arsenal.