Release Date: Sep 16, 2008
Record label: Ato Records/Red
Genre(s): Rock, Pop, Electronic
Engaging, scattershot follow-up to engaging, scattershot debutCarving out a niche in pop electronica is like raising a banner to say, “License these songs!” Thanks to TV and film, artists like Imogen Heap, Kate Havnevik and Jem are heard constantly, but recognized far less.So, for music supervisors, Jem’s latest album Down To Earth is every bit as soundtrack-friendly as her 2004 debut Finally Woken. But for the rest of us, it’s every bit as uneven as that bracing debut. For each infectious groove—like the combustible banjo funk of “Crazy” or the Latin-flavored “I Want You To...”—there’s a tired trip-hop beat (“Keep On Walking”) or a treacly MOR ballad (“Got It Good”).
It didn't quite happen for Jemma Griffiths first time around. Her 2004 debut, Finally Woken, was expected to install her as the edgier Dido, with Didosized sales figures to match, but while the album sold half a million in the UK, her name was still greeted with: "Jem who?" The belated followup shows signs of a musical rethink. Produced by a quartet of big names, including Jeff Bass (who has worked with Eminem) and Greg Kurstin (Lily Allen), her slinky trip-hop now comes with Latin and Afrobeat accents.
Is Jem a club-ready electronica chanteuse or an easygoing adult contemporary artist? It's difficult to tell on Down to Earth, which furthers the dual personality first shown on Jem's 2004 debut. The refusal to settle on one style often serves Jem well, however, and Down to Earth features a bevy of producers who lend their unique approach to each track. Having created diverse sonic stews for Lily Allen and Kylie Minogue -- not to mention his own project, the Bird and the Bee -- Greg Kurstin stops by to helm "Aciiid!," a synth-driven dance track sung partially in Japanese.