mercredi 6 juillet 2011

Clare Maguire's first album deserves Adele's success

Adele and her phenomenal 21 album is better beware because english sister Clare Maguire is about to become the next big thing ! Her first album Light After Dark deserves to sell millions copies as Adele's, and the lady knows how to sing too, and for once, she isn't an ex TV contestant a la Pop Idol / X-Factor. Signed to Polydor, she has co-written all her songs (but one) with her producer Fraser T.Smith, and released her wonderful first album after a first single, Ain't nobody, flopped at #78 in the UK Charts in October 2010. The new single, Last dance, inspired by -or dedicated to- Michael Jackson, did become more successful, finishing #23 in February, while her album sold well, but her latest and third one didn't enter the charts... Compared to Adele, to whom I would link her to, it's a damn shame ! And the UK music press has voted Clare Maguire as the next singer to watch out. Maybe it is already too late for this album but for sure she'll be big with her next and you'll be happy to have discovered her first, after reading these lines... LOL.

Light After Dark starts with an intro that lasts just less than a minute, Are you ready?, where the girl sweetly vocalizes and harmonizes, just to get us in the mood for the real treat, The shield and the sword, her latest single and first catchy tune. This is one of the most upbeat songs on the album and it has a strong pre-chorus and even catchier and anthemic chorus. Her record company has even tried to crossover into the dance/pop buying market by having the ultra-camp Almighty remix team to have it revamped into a full hands-in-the-air disco/dance anthem, and it has worked very well with me, I must admit. With this first song, I fully discovered Clare's strong and deep vocal, and it made me think of Alison Moyet with some touches of Annie Lennox too. But on other songs out here, I have found her singing reminding me of Heather Small's solo effort (after she left M People). The fact is the lady has a killer voice, that can go very high but that she usually uses at a lower range, sometimes very deep, all warm and soulful, always, but on poppy songs that have more rhythm than most of Adele's ones ; while I found Adele's albums a bit boring on the length, Clare's one ain't a bore at all ! It is moving and uplifting, and it doesn't even belong to my usual campy pop/dance musical territory.
Last dance, her previous successful single is equally upbeat and catchy, but its chorus may be more addictive as it is lyrically simple, repeating "I'll save my last dance for you, my friend". The rhythm is nearly a march, on the post-chorus, and the focus is all on her powerful voice. But on next track, Freedom, we discover she could sing on a higher level too, reminiscing more of a Kate Bush or Annie Lennox again than before. It is the only song that hasn't been written by the Clare Maguire/Fraser T.Smith duo, but by german CRADA production team. It is a nice breezy effort and once more we're faced to a melodramatic emotional charge while listening to her lyrics and beautiful voice.

A new potential single follows, called I surrender, and once again the arrangements are upbeat/pop, but with piano & violins giving a soulful touch that for the first time reminds me of Heather Small's first solo album. It'll be a full waste if this track didn't get a full single release ! Next song Bullet showcases Clare's vocal even deeper and Heather Small's chant is even closer here, but the song is more of a mid-tempo, with lightful arrangements on the intro & verse, until the chorus comes, very powerful and repetitive like Last dance was, going "You shot this bullet through my bones, You shot me down, down, down I go". This one, for sure, is an album track as it is less offensive and instant for a single release, but an album filler it ain't !
But the next song is a surefire single again, with the usual now catchy repeted line giving its title to the song, The happiest pretenders, and I understand with this new one the way Clare sings long notes without losing her breath ; as if it was her trademark, most of her choruses see her sing long note after long note on a short line that is repeted to mark her brain with its melody, and it works so well. And she does it so gracefully, with soul, and vibe, and power... Sweet lie alternates once again on the emotional side, with its fragile melody and more touching vocals, but the lines "out of sight out of mind" or "if I see you again" sound more addictive on the melody than the title line, which doesn't make this one a good song for radio, but a peaceful and magic moment, once more.
Break these chains sees Heather Small's deep voice come back, with narrative verses and full anthemic soulful big chorus that I feel a full crowd would sing along to in a concert. Single! Single! my ears are hearing again... Too much of a good thing is never enough on this CD... But when comes the bridge, all gospel with choir, I have a sudden shock : Clare Maguire is NOT black but she sings with so much soul and rhythm & blues that she must be one at heart.
You're electric has been a promotional single but it hasn't the same instant appeal the previous potential singles in my ears had. Naturally, its chorus is powerful and anthemic, but with a lot more lines in it than the repetitive ones ; may this be the reason, really, for its lesser appeal ? It is a strong album track nonetheless ! Her first single Ain't nobody follows and I can hear a difference in the inspiration, even though, like the previous songs, it is written by the usual singer/producer duo. It is more of an atmospherical track with an hypnotical rhythm than an upbeat song. It has nice backing vocals arrangements, sometimes tribal to me, and it makes me think of a voodoo song, something like an incantation song for a lover maybe ? For sure their songwriting partnership has improved to write the other songs and lead them into a more appealing format.
It is nearly the end of the CD and the title song comes, just before the end. Light after dark is Clare's usual powerful song with big chorus sung with long notes the lady keep seconds after seconds. But it is no habit taken or bore coming ; it is just her style, her phrasé, and I like it, I feel it very appealing, nearly hypnotic. Once again, there are beautiful backing vocals harmonies vocalizing and the whole musical background arrangement leads the song into an orgasmic ending that leaves us under shock, knocked out after the whole album. And to close it all, This is not the end goes all mystical, religious and I first thought it was a traditional chant that she had covered. But no, it is a self penned song that goes the inspirational route, all calm and moving, but a strange way to finish the album. I must say I don't like it, AT ALL ! It is too rhythmless maybe. But it would perfectly fit a Christmas night at the church...

I regret the CD doesn't include the bonus songs that had been freely released on the digital world. First there has been another Kate Bush inspired lightful and breezy song called Lucky. And I would have loved to hear it after the title track instead of the boring one. Else, it could have been the iTune pre-order bonus track, Burn, a catchy song that got an upbeat and brilliant chorus, like nearly all songs on Light after dark after all...

So what's next in store for Miss Maguire ? Another single or two from her album I hope, just to try to milk it and get higher in the charts. Isn't Fraser T. Smith the co-writer of Adele's latest hit Set fire to the rain or the man behind Craig David's hitsingles from the Trust me era after all ? Clare Maguire just needs the right track to click with the mainstream audience like Rolling in the deep has done for Adele. Last dance and The shield and the sword didn't do the job ; I think The happier pretenders can do. I guess we just have to wait and see ...and keep our fingers crossed, 'cos it'd be a shame and a waste to see her talent stay ignored by the masses. But first thing first : lend her a ear or two and prepare yourself to get hooked !

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