Emeli Sandé Our Version of Events(Virgin) Buy it from Insound
The phrase “meteoric rise to fame” has become something of a cliché nowadays. In the digital age in which we live, an artist that somehow manages to shine above the competition and capture the hearts of the masses can easily achieve worldwide recognition in a matter of months, if not weeks. More and more artists are being hyped before they've so much as officially released a single and so, every few weeks it would seem, there is a new artist who has had a “meteoric rise to fame”.
The danger with such an immediate introduction into the spotlight is that it can cause an almost-as-immediate backlash from music fans and critics alike. Take Lana Del Ray or Skrillex as an example. In the past 12 months, both have gone from being artists whose music was heavily featured on blogs, but nothing more, to artists who are bordering on being household names. In the process, there has been noticeable and, at times, unfair skepticism surrounding them and their music.
In many ways, Emeli Sandé's “meteoric rise to fame” has been a much more traditional affair, as very little of her success has derived itself from Internet hype. As a result, she hasn't attracted anywhere near the same level of negativity. An exciting début single (Heaven) crossing over between pop and drum and bass music earned her a great deal of radio airplay and a song that reached number 2 in the UK charts. A number of guest appearances on songs by artists including Tinie Tempah, Chipmunk, Wiley and Professor Green further enhanced her exposure. And now, a little after six months since the release of her début single, she has won the coveted Critics' Choice Brit Award, been announced as the support for Coldplay's upcoming US tour and achieved UK sales of over 113,000 in the first week of release of Our Version of Events, her début album.
And I, for one, am pleased to see that she is having so much success. For starters, Sandé is a real talent. Not only does she write her own songs, she is an accomplished pianist and has a beautiful, soulful live voice. Hers is a classic story of an ordinary girl making it big; growing up in a small village in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, her achievements have come through hard work, and being good at what she does.
All of which makes Our Version of Events a little disappointing. The exciting, dark broodiness of singles Heaven and Daddy aside, this album is little more than a series of depressing, unspectacular pop ballads.
Taken in isolation, very few of the down-tempo tracks are weak; there's a story behind every song, and, through some well-crafted lyrics, these stories are beautifully told. There's also the occasional catchy melody and one or two sweet harmonies. The main problem is, however, that there are absolutely no boundaries pushed. There is little differentiation between the tracks, which are almost all overly reliant on piano to carry them through. As a result, the album sounds about as middle-of-the-road as it's possible to be. It's the sort of album you might expect from the winner of a reality TV show, but not from the Brit-winning talent who launched her career as a solo artist with such exciting, forward-thinking pop music.
Of course, in a world in which former reality stars Leona Lewis and Susan Boyle sell millions of albums, you can understand why Sandé has opted to do what she's done – she's already got her recognition and so she's decided to play it safe, appeal to the masses. It's just that for those who were excited by the initial teaser of Heaven, it's hard not to feel a little let down.
Somehow, though, I don't think this is the last we will be seeing of Emeli Sandé. And if her next album features something a little less vanilla, it could be some of the best pop Britain has produced in a decade. Don't write her off just yet.21 February, 2012 - 10:07 — Craig Stevens