Review : Emeli Sande - Our Version of Events
BbcEmeli Sandé’s aptly-named solo debut single Heaven was arguably the finest British pop song released in 2011. The Scottish singer-songwriter’s seraphic vocal swoops and producer Shahid ‘Naughty Boy’ Khan’s reassuring old-school breakbeats were warmly received by listeners, while a striking similarity to Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy can rarely hurt a song’s success.
Considering Heaven, which opens Our Version of Events, and the fact Sandé has written for everyone from Alicia Keys and Leona Lewis to Tinie Tempah, Sugababes and even Susan Boyle, it's perhaps reasonable to expect the most consistently great pop album since Girls Aloud’s Out of Control. Although this doesn’t arrive, we do have a charming and occasionally moving record full of care and polish, effort and grace.
"I can’t buy your love, don’t even want to try / Sometimes the truth won’t make you happy," sings Sandé on My Kind of Love, amid filtered pianos and surprisingly understated gospel chants. Lovely stuff, but it would have been a more compelling listen if the track was ludicrous and overblown, like the brilliant George Michael and Mary J. Blige cover of Stevie Wonder’s As....full text
GuardianNot 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. One of its best outings provides just that. Underscored by strings and a trip-hop shuffle, "Daddy" is a tale of an unhealthy love affair told through the eyes of a jaded friend.
Over the course of these 14 songs, Sandé is revealed as an able storyteller, making universal singalong fodder out of grainy specifics. There's a packed bag and a dangling key on "Suitcase", a song about leave-taking that could be set in the fragrant dust of country music just as easily as it is in the aspirational loft living of Sandé's metropolitan pop-soul. It's not quite clear what's happening on "Heaven", an opening track that fondly recalls both Shara Nelson singing with Massive Attack and Baby D's drum'n'bass hit "Let Me Be Your Fantasy" . It could be about identity, or disappointment, or impatience, but the mystery is righteous. Both Sandé's vocals, and her authorial voice, are distinctive.
So many female pop performers don't write their own stuff. That is no barrier to enjoying their wares, but Sandé not only writes her own songs, her partnership with producer Shahid "Naughty Boy" Khan has produced great swaths of the stuff, destined for gritty rappers and X Factor outcrops alike. Cheryl Cole, Susan Boyle and Cher Lloyd have all been Sandéd. Chipmunk's breakthrough "Diamond Rings" was one of hers, as was Professor Green's summer chart-topper "Read All About It"; she is currently writing for the original Sugababes lineup. Last year, Sandé became known as Simon Cowell's favourite songwriter and in that particular commendation lies the kernel of this album's shortcomings.
While you feel you are in the hands of an able pop surgeon, Sandé never cuts the cancer of blandness out of the genre as decisively as you would hope. The ballads tend to recall Sandé's idol, Alicia Keys; Keys figures prominently on "Hope", a particularly buttock-clenching album closer that seeks to heal the world's ills, but makes you want to deface pianos. Only "Breaking the Law" bucks the boring ballad trend. It's a cut-back curio that sounds as though it could be about standing up for a disabled relative as it could be for a lover....full text
TelegraphThe Brits’ Critics Choice Award may have been lampooned for crowning acts before they earn their stripes, but you can’t deny that the panel has a canny habit of backing a winning horse. Since the prize was launched in 2008, the recipients read like a who’s who of successful contemporary British female singer-songwriters: Adele, Florence and the Machine, Ellie Goulding and Jessie J. All have been bright, idiosyncratic artists, with talent in spades.
Continuing that trend, this year’s feted big-seller is Emeli Sandé, a 24-year-old Scot of black South African decent and a former medical student with a bleached quiff and a voice like honey and thunder. This remarkable debut splices urban flare with pop savvy, and proves her a worthy pick.
Sandé’s road to recognition has been via two distinct avenues. First she offered vocal ballast to tracks from grimy hit-makers Wiley, Devlin and Professor Green, but latterly she has been co-writing more conventional pop songs for talent-show alumni Leona Lewis, Cher Lloyd and even Susan Boyle, prompting Simon Cowell to name-check her as his “favourite songwriter of the moment”....full text
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