dimanche 27 mars 2011

Be ready for September in Spring

I have discovered Petra Marklund (aka September under her artist name) a couple of years ago, before she made it big in the international dance scene with Cry for you. Her first eponyme album from 2004 on Stockholm Records grabbed my attention with the catchy singles La la la (never give it up), We can do it but September all over even more. I bought the CD on import and loved it so much I had regrets it only had 11 tracks and not any single more. I would have loved to see Same old song or love thing get a single release too. The whole album was masterminded by Jonas von der Burg, on production, mix and songwriting (along with his brother(?) Niclas and Anoo Bhagavan) and although this swedish producer wasn't new to the scene, he already produced for Ace Of Base amongst others, his name hadn't been noticeable until then. With the September project and with Petra's beautiful voice, his work impressed me so when her following album was released the following year, I ordered In orbit as soon as I could.

All songs were from the same team and the whole album had the same distinctive electro dance spell I had fallen under with September. The singles opened the CD and over the first one, Satellite, I loved Looking for love which had a disco revival inspired electro-house sound. Then, surely to prove she wasn't just a dance diva, came the calm midtempo Flowers on the grave which was the first Petra song that bored me, before It doesn't matter which, for my great pleasure, mixed again disco sounds and handclaps with electro/dance. But the pure jewel of the album, although the other album tracks were good and catchy (Sacrifice or Midnight heartache, with its Bettie Davis' eyes sample, could have been singles too), was the opener, Cry for you, who finally got released by the end of 2006 and little by little was issued in more and more countries, till it hit #5 in the UK charts in April 2008. It led her to release a compilation album of the same name in the UK but she only got another Top20 hit nearly a year after when Can't get over got to #14. That new single was the lead single from her third album Dancing shoes which got released in Sweden in 2007 and included the single edit of Cry for you as a bonus track too. The same writing/producing team was on board but they worked the magic to the electro/dance sound the success of Cry for you emulated. Until I die was the next single, with even more banging club sounds and an anthemic chorus, before Because I love you and its sweet melody and spanish inspired rhythm changed the pace once again. I naturally loved this new album like her previous ones and got more album tracks to cherish : Candy love had drum loops reminiscent of SAW/PWL and opened the CD with perfection, My neighbourhood had a raw rock vibe in her chant, with a Motiv8 inspired beat rhythm, R.I.P. and its killer chorus, or Just an illusion which had Petra go back the disco/house route a la Alcazar. Nearly all the tracks were featured along singles from her previous album on the international edition September, intended for the US market to surf on the Cry for you success. Bonus tracks included were her candlelight versions of some of her singles and her beautiful voice sounded so right on this acoustic version of Cry for you... Other compilation versions were released, Gold or Dancing In Orbit, with quite the same songs included, always without hits from her first album on Stockholm Records, because of her label change. In the UK, her first album release for the Hard2Beat label that signed her there was called Cry For You - The Album and included the same patch of songs, but in UK remixed edits form. It was the first to include September all over and We can do it, remixed, and a brand new song, Sin of my own. It only got released digitally though and is proof bad marketing can kill an album success potential in the UK !

From then on, Petra seems to have needed a break from her non-stop 5 years recording/performing and, with the exception of a collaboration single with Schiller Breathe, it was only at the end of 2010 that September was back in her native Sweden with her first swedish song, Mikrofonkåt, a cover of rap artist Petter. It was a huge smash hits in Sweden, staying over ten weeks at #1. Ready for her fourth studio album, Love CPR (=CardioPulmonary Resuscitation), Petra recorded an english version of it to be included on it, Me and my microphone, but released first a new single, Resuscitate me, first original song not to be written -nor produced- by the usual von der Burg team. In fact, this new album sees the emancipation of Petra Marklund from the September usual sound & von der Burg production. He only participates for three songs out of the 14 from the english tracklisting and it looks like, from the benefit of her international past success, the artist has been able to work with whoever she wanted, or maybe just with those who wanted to work with her. I am a little mixed about the final result as I really liked the von der Burg input in September music. All together, they had created a sound for September and I feel this sound doesn't exist anymore. Maybe this Love CPR album is the first by Petra Marklund, singer of September. In fact it isn't her first as, before September, she already released an album under her own name in 2000 when she was only 16, called Teen Queen. Like its name intends, it was made of light bubblish dance/pop sung with a too juvenile voice. Thank God Petra had grown up to become our lady September.

So her fourth September (but fifth in total) studio album Love CPR starts with a party crasher, Party in my head, that is her brand new single. Produced by Cutfather, Lucas Secon, Daniel Davidsen & Peter Wallevick (they wrote Kylie's Get outta my way) and co-written with UK #1 songwriter Wayne Hector, it has "N°1 HIT" written all over it and is the perfect starter for the album. Next track is her previous single, Resuscitate me, and it was written/produced by the same Cutfather, Lucas Secon & Wayne Hector, along Jonas Jeberg. Very catchy with a high-pitched vocal chorus line, it was the perfect come back single for the international market, except it didn't sound like the old September. With this one, Petra is in the same league as Kylie, and the UK commissioned remixers Buzz Junkies and Moto Blanco did their best to make her sound like our cherished first pop/dance diva.

When the next song starts, it is like the old September is back, with electro/dance melodic arrengements, and watching the booklet, I discovered Something's going on is written by... none other than Jonas von der Burg with Niklas von der Burg & Anoo Bhagavan while he's on the mixing/production desk and his wife Jeanette is on backing vocals. The song is really catchy and upbeat, with an atmospheric electro background melody and autotuned vocals. I feel its third place placing in the CD tracklisting surely means it is a forthcoming single and I won't complain 'bout it !

Intimate connection is next and Petra co-wrote it with producers Naiv & Jake, whoever they could be. While the verses are nothing special to me, sorry girl, but when the chorus comes, I HATE IT. It has balkan "la la la" singalong lines that deeply irritate me and make me want to skip to the next track. The only part of the song that appeals to me is the post-chorus part that sees her sing the title words in a vocoderized voice ; album filler ! (or publishing cash provider for her...)

Petra shares another writing credits on Heat rising, with producers Patric Sarin & Jaakko Salovaara, but it is a winning combination this time. Her vocals are becoming mischievous and it could have been a perfect hit for Nicole Scherzinger or Britney Spears so you bet her usual european dance/pop sound has incorporated more electro/R&B to appeal to the US side of her worldwide fanbase but it's still okay. Walk away that follows starts all gentle and sweet and proves soon to stay a calm mid-tempo that, once again, Petra co-wrote with producers Sebastian & Didrik Thott with Christian Fast. It is a nice song and the first out of three songs from the same writing session, but nothing to be compared with the next one. It is called Ricochet and although I can feel there can some balkanic inspiration to its melody, I like it much more and its killer chorus line "I'm like a bullet, a bullet, I'm gonna ricochet". Single alert #2 for sure ! The third song she wrote with the Thotts with Christian Falk is called Hands up and is produced by Niklas Bergwall, previously of the 2N production team who did all Kate Ryan recent hits, and is another party crasher with full hands-in-the-air anthemic chorus Petra gives her most powerful vocals to. There is a nice jiggling rhythm too, after she goes "now will you dance with me?" in a nearly childish voice. Even though it is not the one I'd choose to become a single, I like it a lot.

Me and my microphone is next and I really regret it hasn't been this english version that has been released in the place of the swedish sung version of it. Its chorus lyrics are very repetitive but catchy and become nearly obsessional while listening to the song over again. I can't get enough of it ! Once more it is Niklas Bergwall who produced it and has done the lyrics with Petra, and I must say he has done a fantastic job on this another one.

Petra teams up once again with Naiv for the following track Music and even if the song's structure & lyrics look simple, it is catchier with every more verse & chorus line sung. The chorus is simply moving, taking you away with it, surely making you sing along like I do and the electronical effects on vocals and backing music add a sound like Robyn usually uses. Even though not a single, it is another really strong album track for me.

The producers of Heat rising team back with Petra on My emergency, who's gotten some help on lyrics by Christian Fast & Didrik Thott, and once again, it is like good ol' September is back, with this catchy upbeat electro/dance song. It seems to be the perfect transition song as the next one is another by the von der Burg team. Walk alone could have easily been included on her last two albums and is a nice album filler. White flag, not a Dido cover, is a strange upbeat number, produced by Erik Lewander with Stonebridge on additional production and mix, that I find on the overall rather irritating although I cannot point out what's wrong with it... The english tracklisting ends with the last von der Burg song, Bump and grind, and I can hear some Ace Of Base inspirational melody and rhythm in the chorus, even though it is a full upbeat dance song, not a reggae mid-tempo. It is pleasant and nice but not my real cup of tea. So the last tracks on this 14 tracks CD may have deceived me a little but nothing to be compared with what's next in store !

Love CPR has 5 bonus tracks in swedish and I was thinking they may be swedish versions of english tracks previously displayed like track #17 Mikrofonkåt. I was wrong. Baksmälla is the first and a collaboration with Petter, the rapper she covered the previous hit song. Needless to say the rap parts in swedish made me skip this song ; I'm not into rap, neither in french nor in english, so think about in swedish ! Kärlekens tunga is a lot more appealing, thanks to the Niklas Bergwall retro production, a cross between Visage's Fade to grey and the Giorgio Moroder-esque productions of early 80's. Except this song sounds so good I would have loved to have an english version to appreciate it 200% ! Like I already said, next is Mikrofonkåt and once again the Niklas Bergwall electronic production saves this song sung in swedish. But the next one Vem ska jag tro på is not and is an accoustic mid-tempo with galloping rhythm on guitar and hurtful vocals by Petra. The song must be talking of love pains or something like that... Even in english, I doubt I'd have loved it... The last one, Teddybjörnen Fredriksson, sounds like a child lullaby and shall I say once more that, sung in swedish, it doesn't sound ideal at all, nor in english, for my tastes. The candlelight versions of her dance hits sounded way better than these ones... What a bad ending of a CD ! Me who always like them when their tracklisting is longer than long, would have liked this one to be shortened to maybe just #16 & 17 added to the usual 14 first ones...

The digital edition of the album apparently has a bonus english track called Nobody knows and I regret it isn't included on my physical imported CD ; once again, I don't understand why the physical buyers get less material than the downloaders... And I won't buy the album a second time online, just to get one song ! Having heard it from the link featured in the comments this von der Burg sounding vocoderized dance song would have been the perfect end title not to finish this CD with a bad taste in the mouth/sorry, ears.

In conclusion, September's new album is a good one, but maybe less appealing as her previous work for me. Maybe because she worked with several different people, her usual strong sound has been delayed into different styles and some don't fit her that good. It has very strong anthems though and is a must-have in my CD collection just because of them but I was awaiting so much more from her. The swedish songs featured here already makes me thank her for not going the full swedish album route she may have thought for a second or two and I only hope her next album will see her back with Jonas von der Burg for more than a single and a couple fillers too. I know he has worked with other dance artists from Sweden (Danny Saucedo, Da Buzz, Velvet) but Petra and him should stick together ; their team is magic. And if she wants to get more songwriting co-credits like she has on this album, he simply should let her write with him. If not, I'd say to her : stick to Cutfather & Niklas : it is their songs that sound the best out of here...

2 commentaires:

  1. Nobody knows can be heard here :

  2. I really liked your review. I agree with many things. But i don't think that "Walk Alone" is a filler. For me, it's genius.