MAKE SOME NOISE: THE AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN TO SAVE DARFUR – VARIOUS ARTISTS
Marketed and distributed by Warner Music Gallo Africa
With an album such as this it’s very difficult to review the music without at least looking at the reason behind its existence. The conflict in Darfur, Sudan, has lead to some of the worst human rights abuses imaginable, including systematic and widespread murder, rape, abduction and displacement. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed by deliberate and indiscriminate attacks, and over two and a half million civilians have been displaced. It is with this international crisis in mind that some of today’s biggest musical icons have come together with Amnesty International for the Make Some Noise campaign to save Darfur. By covering most of John Lennon’s most famous songs, they aim to express their support for Amnesty International’s efforts to make a difference, culminating in one very special double album. On disc one, U2 impresses with Instant Karma, as do Christina Aguilera with Mother, Aerosmith with Give Peace A Chance (with the Sierra Leone All Stars) and Avril Lavigne on Imagine. On disc two, Green Day, Black Eyed Peas, Snow Patrol and Matisyahu amaze with Working Class Hero, Power To The People, Isolation and Watching The Wheels. This album contains some of the most impressive covers and interpretations of Lennon’s music I have ever heard. At its core, the Make Some Noise campaign allows for us, the citizens of the world, and, more importantly, Africa, to do something for human rights. It prevents us from throwing our hands in the air and proclaiming that there is nothing we can do about the injustices of the world. As Irene Khan of Amnesty International said, if there’s one thing more inspirational than music, it’s having a hand in the movement to achieve human rights and peace for all. In this time that we’re celebrating gay Pride, we’ve been given an opportunity to make a difference – use it.
REAL GIRL – MUTYA BUENA
Marketed and distributed by Universal Music SA
Breaking away from an established band to pursue a solo career is a huge gamble, especially if your voice formed such an intrinsic part of that group. Mutya Buena is the latest case in point – there is simply no way to separate her voice from the fabulous Sugababes. Yet on Real Girl, her debut solo album, Mutya manages to combine elements of the Sugababes’ pop sensibility with a truly forward-thinking blend of R&B and soul-inspired songs that still remain refreshingly pop-orientated. The phenomenal Song For Mutya (Out Of Control) with Groove Armada is so fantastically infectious that you’ll be forgiven for mistaking it as a new Sugababes single, but, aside from It’s Not Easy, is also where the comparisons end. Real Girl is a suitably brilliant debut single, not only sampling a Lenny Kravitz melody but also immediately declaring her independence from her musical past. Strung Out is one of the best songs on the album, starting in a slow, vocally dramatic fashion before easing into a steady, memorable beat. Suffer For Love is an old-school R&B/soul-type ballad, while Not Your Baby has a catchy retro beat. Also worth a mention is This Is Not (Real Love) with George Michael. The album is however not flawless – B Boy Baby, which samples Phil Spector’s classic Be My Baby, is annoyingly catchy and skirts on the edge of cheesy kitsch. Real Girl is nevertheless a truly impressive debut that makes me wonder why Mutya stuck with Sugababes for so long. On this album, the astonishing strength and versatility of her voice comes to the fore and takes centre stage, keeping your attention and simultaneously establishing her as a female vocalist to watch very closely.
MY DECEMBER – KELLY CLARKSON
Marketed and distributed by SonyBMG Music Entertainment
The most successful winner of any Idols competition, Kelly Clarkson’s previous album, Breakaway, not only established her as a musical force to be reckoned with and won her several Grammy awards, but also finally erased the talent contest winner label that was written next to her name. It is therefore understandable that the world was waiting with baited breath for her new album, My December. Let’s be honest right from the get go: nothing on My December remotely resembles the pop sensibility displayed on Breakaway. Yet to me, comparing the two albums is not only impossible, but also quite foolish. First single, Never Again, immediately shows the direction of the new album – it’s angry and spiteful and perfectly complemented by the heavy rock influences. One Minute, Don’t Waste Your Time and How I Feel adds a bit more pop to the mix, while Hole moves Kelly squarely into the rock genre – heavy and brilliant, it’s possibly the best song on the album. Then, on Sober, the album takes an unexpected turn to sadness, an emotion echoed by Haunted, Maybe, Be Still, Can I Have A Kiss and Irvine. Is this album what I expected from Kelly Clarkson? Definitely not. But, the fact that My December is deeper, angrier and more mature than Breakaway doesn’t make it a bad album. My December can only be truly enjoyed once the preconceived ideas of what the album should have sounded like are broken down. To me, it lingers outside the traditional sphere of pop, where it comes surprisingly close to being a favourite this year.
OUT OF MY HANDS – KEISHA WHITE
Marketed and distributed by Warner Music Gallo Africa
I’m not one to usually buy into publicity hype; artists proclaimed to be the next big thing often fade into obscurity. But in Keisha White’s case, it would appear as if her record company is indeed telling the truth – her astounding voice, perceptive lyrics and infectious melodies truly do make her stand out above rest. Keisha’s debut album from 2005, Seventeen, didn’t fare particularly well in the UK, and has subsequently been deleted by her record company, making it a rarity. Out Of My Hands, Keisha’s second album, was released earlier this year and comprises songs from Seventeen as well as new material. From the sweetly sarcastic pop brilliance of Don’t Mistake Me (which featured in Grey’s Anatomy) to the gorgeous soul of first single The Weakness In Me (written by Joan Armatrading), the album had me hooked by the end of the first two tracks. I Choose Life, Complicated Emotions, It Takes A Stronger Man and the title track are also pop gems that have a retro-R&B feel to them, while her cover of Patti Austin and James Ingram’s Baby Come To Me adds a modern sound to the ‘80s classic. Out Of My Hands has the potential to appeal to a wide variety of tastes. White manages to balance pop and rock with her R&B/soul roots to provide a thoroughly up-to-date yet old-school soulful collection of superb songs. There are no vocal theatrics on this album, just rock solid pop songs that very quickly crawl under your skin. Out Of My Hands is a stellar album that proves that sometimes the world simply isn’t ready for brilliance the first time round.