Conventional pop wisdom dictates that if you find a superstar one year, expect the next year to be full of clones. It was inevitable that following the phenomenal success of Amy Winehouse, we would then be bombarded with a number of females-with-voices this year. The biggest successes so far have been Duffy and Adele; and now the Aussies have got in on the act and exported their very own contender.
What sets Gabriella Cilmi apart from the others is her very young age - she’s only 16 years old, which would suggest that you’d expect her to sound more like Amy Diamond than Amy Winehouse. That’s until you hear her sing - she’s got the voice of someone twice, maybe three times her age!
Debut single "Sweet About Me" feels like it’s been around for ever, and was a real ‘sleeper’ hit as it took so long to climb the UK singles chart. Even now, five months later, it’s still in the top 20 and no doubt was helped along by featuring in a TV ad for deodorant.
Although "Lessons To Be Learned", Gabriella’s debut album is no "Back To Black", it’s a fine debut which has a few potential hit singles in there. I’d say it was an album of two halves - the first half containing the most commercial material. The excellent second single "Save The Lies" - a funky, feisty stomper vocally reminiscent of Anastacia - opens the album and is a very good place to start.
"Sanctuary" has a Bacharach-style backbeat, whilst atmospheric ballad "Einstein" is very nice and the chorus sounds very like something Girls Aloud might do. This could maybe be explained by the involvement on this album of everyone’s favourite pop production team, Xenomania. This is also a very good incentive to check the album out. Girls Aloud fans should also have a listen to "Don’t Want To Go To Bed Now" - this really sounds like something they would record! (I began to wonder if Ms Cilmi was some kind of vocal chameleon, who could be Amy Winehouse one minute, Anastacia the next, then Nadine...?)
For some reason, I wish someone would do a remix of "Don’t Want To Go To Bed Now" and add some Adam and the Ants-style double drums. Maybe someone somewhere could do a mash-up???
"Got No Place To Go" to these ears screams potential single. I only hope they don’t release her cover of "Echo Beach" which, OK as it is, adds nothing to the perfectly classic Martha and the Muffins original. (Did this have something to do with that ITV soap "Echo Beach"? Which, incidentally, isn’t being recommissioned. Quelle surprise.) "Messy" is catchy but a little annoying.
I’ve read interviews with Gabriella Cilmi which refer to her own personal musical tastes being more rock/blues than pop, and perhaps some of the later songs are more in the style that she would prefer to record. I remember in one interview she referred to having to "compromise" over some of the song choices on her debut.
So I’d guess that songs like "Terrifying", "Awkward Game" and "Sit In The Blues" are more representative of the direction she would want to go in. She wants to prove that she has more substance than the average pop singer, but only time will tell if she will be allowed to develop into the artist that she wants to become and find her own distinctive musical identity. In the meantime, "Lessons To Be Learned" is a debut album which she should be very proud of. (7 out of 10)