El Bicho's Hive

A Collection of Reviews Covering the Worlds of Art and Entertainment alongside other Snobbish Ramblings.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Katie Melua
Universal Records

Katie Melua’s Call Off The Search is a pleasant album of pop music, which can be taken as a compliment or a criticism depending on your feelings for the genre.  It It is nice enough to have playing in the background during a party, but I wouldn’t borrow it from a friend to make my own copy.  After a few listens to the whole CD, I was unsatisfied and had trouble staying focused to it.  The album is way too polished for my taste and lacks an organic feeling to it.  To be fair, I’m a man “in my thirties,” as David Brent would say, and I might not be the audience this artist is gearing her work towards.
The whole project comes across as a producer trying to take advantage of the market that Norah Jones has illuminated for the recording industry.  We have an attractive, raven-haired, young woman singing songs old and new, the latter of which are mostly written by the aforementioned producer.   The music is over produced and sounds too much like session guys their playing parts, contributing to the feeling that Katie is a hired hand as well.  The music has a jazzy feel to it, but is at times too loud, masking the vocals, such as “Crawling Up A Hill”.
As an artist, Katie has a good voice, but there was nothing unique about it and her range on the album is limited.  She writes two songs that appear on the CD, but unfortunately, the lyrics remind you that she is a 19-year-old and stand out in sharp contrast to the adult songwriters she covers, such as Randy Newman and John Mayall.  She does everything adequately in every category; however, other artists who are better come to my mind first, so I would inevitably put on their music instead.
While she is a competent singer, I never felt her convey the emotions of the songs.  During “The Closest Thing To Crazy” I can’t hear her pain and the lyrics, written by the producer, don’t help.  She sings about “feeling twenty-two, acting seventeen,” as if there’s some great difference in those years for a young woman, and maybe there is, but this song didn't illustrate them.  “My Aphrodisiac Is You” has got good lyrics, but again, there was an emotional disconnect from the song and the singer.  I don’t feel her passion or sexuality like I do from Alanis Morrisette or Tori Amos.
Katie needs to explore herself more, which will come with age.  I do think that if she works harder and find material that fits her better, she can grow as a singer.  She needs to work with the right people who want to help her develop instead of dealing with a producer just trying to sell a record.  There’s nothing wrong with commerce, but Katie comes across wanting to be an artist, someone in the foreground, not filler in the background.


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