Monday, July 28, 2014

No surprises here

album reviews

Sia's 1000 Forms of Fear lacks diversity and Robin Thicke‘s Paula falls on deaf ears

Singer: Sia
Album: 1000 Forms of Fear

Over the last few years, Australian singer Sia Furler has made a name for herself as a songwriter for hire, building a resume that showcases writing credits for pop stars like Britney Spears, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé, Kylie Minogue, and Shakira. Her style may be limited but it fits the glossy pop landscape, a critique that also applies to her new album, 1000 Forms of Fear.

On her first record since 2010's We Are Born, the quirky singer (whose current loathing for fame has led her to perform with her back towards the audience and pose with a paper bag on her head) works with a host of co-writers to share songs that are often inspired by her personal struggles, opening up about her depression and addiction on tracks like lead single 'Chandelier'. Her distinctive voice adds texture and emotion to the delivery, although her strained vocals are often made unintelligible by her inability to enunciate words clearly.

The singer knows how to come up with catchy melodies, and there are some strong tunes in this 12-song set that has been produced primarily by Greg Kurstin. But just as Sia's credentials would suggest, the results are quite formulaic. The songwriting is generally very straightforward and generic; the lyrics often get mired in clichés; and there is nothing creative about the song structures. Perhaps the album's biggest fault is that the material fails to set her apart from other artists. Most of these songs could have appeared on any contemporary pop singer's album and we would hardly have noticed the difference.

1000 Forms of Fear, Sia's sixth album, hovers too close to the sound that she has helped create for other artists, coasting on the same brew that she has been crafting for commercial success and losing her own distinctive edge. Much of the album isn't interesting enough to stand out in the sea of mainstream music, but if you like simple, glossy pop, then this album is very likely to impress you.

Highlights: 'Chandelier', 'Hostage', 'Straight for the Knife'
Rating: 3 out of 5


Singer: Robin Thicke
Album: Paula

Robin Thicke wants Paula Patton back and no one seems to care, quite possibly including Paula Patton herself.

The R&B crooner and his actress wife separated earlier this year amidst rumors of infidelity on his part, not long after his image took a significant hit following his sudden rise to global fame with the success of controversial single 'Blurred Lines'.

Now, the hastily assembled Paula seems to be on a twofold mission: to win back his childhood sweetheart while capitalizing on the momentum of last year's Blurred Lines. From the looks of it, the album has, at least so far, failed on both counts. According to the by now infamous statistic, the disc sold 530 copies in the UK, 550 in Canada, and around 50 in Australia during its first week. But its sales figures aren't the only embarrassing aspect of this project. Its content is awkward in more ways than one, and often takes the listener to an uncomfortably invasive territory.

All songs have been co-written and co-produced (with Pro Jay) by the singer himself, and a handful of them display obvious influences, like the John Legend  reminiscent 'Still Madly Crazy' and the James Brown evoking 'Living in New York'. There is no denying Thicke's vocal prowess and his delivery is as smooth as ever on these tunes. Sonically the set is quite affable, but combined with the lyrics, the overall effect is almost unsettling. And it doesn't help that the playful songs sometimes sound too self-satisfied, and the otherwise catchy tracks like 'Something Bad' are layered with an odd tone of smugness.

Whether Paula helps save Robin Thicke's marriage remains to be seen, but it is very unlikely that the record will help the singer with his image problem. The album's content borders on humiliating and creepy, and even though it offers some enjoyable slices of funk and soul tinged R&B, its lack of lyrical grace doesn't do much to help Thicke's cause.

Highlights: 'Get Her Back', 'Still Madly Crazy'
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

- By Sameen Amer

Instep Today, The News - 28th July, 2014 *

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