Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Ricki-Lee's Brand New Day

Any doubts surrounding Ricki-Lee's decision to leave Young Divas disappeared when "Can't Touch It" debuted at #2 on the Australian singles chart. With the album's brilliant first single an undisputed smash hit, "Brand New Day" swiftly became one of the year's most highly anticipated pop releases. With good reason, as it turns out. Ricki-Lee's second album shrewdly pitches her as Australia's answer to Christina Aguilera. Like Christina, Ricki-Lee has a huge voice and explores musical genres traditionally dominated by black artists. Unlike Christina, Ricki-Lee never forgets her pop roots. "Brand New Day" has a shiny veneer of urban credibility but Ricki-Lee's pop sensibility is never too far from the surface.

From the very first song, it's immediately apparent that "Brand New Day" is massive step forward from Ricki-Lee's debut album. The production is sharper, the songs are better and Ricki-Lee's voice has developed a gravelly edge that it previously lacked. The album kicks out with "Can't Sing A Different Song", a rollicking anthem that sounds like a cross between Christina Aguilera and Gwen Stefani. While "Can't Sing A Different Song" sits on the cutting edge of urban pop, the album's title track is a gorgeous soul pastiche which owes more to Stevie Wonder than Pharrell. The funky instrumentation and perky backing vocals make "Brand New Day" a sunny treat. One of my concerns for the album was that it might get bogged down with dreary ballads and vocal acrobatics. For the first half of the album, Ricki-Lee keeps the overwrought balladry to a minimum. "Melody Of Life" is one of the disc's best ballads. It showcases Ricki-Lee's exquisite voice without any false sentiment. The production is breathtaking with a gorgeous blend of instruments and orchestration.

The album's best song and a smash hit in waiting is a cover version of a Swedish pop tune. "Love Is All Around" was first sung by the winner of Swedish Idol, Agnes Carlsson. Her version was the standout track on an otherwise dismal album but was ultimately hampered by Agnes' reed thin voice and the overly clinical production. Ricki-Lee has breathed life into "Love Is All Around", transforming the song into warm and uplifting pop anthem. Some critics have likened "Love Is All Around" to Janet Jackson and there is more than a hint of "Together Again" in Ricki-Lee's version. I hope that Janet hears "Love Is All Around", remembers her glory days and decides to stop singing about her cunt. The quality of the tracks on "Brand New Day" is consistently excellent but "Love Is All Around" is spectacular and positively screams to be released as a single. The same can not be said for Ricki-Lee's reggae jam, "Real Good Time". The song is perfectly enjoyable but I don't think Ricki-Lee's future lies in Jamaican dance halls.

"Can't Touch It" deserves all the praise that has been lavished upon it. Ricki-Lee's party anthem will be heating up nightclubs for years to come with its killer beats and fierce lyrics. The pounding drums, hand claps and brassy vocals make "Can't Touch It" an instant Australian pop classic. One of the album's most appealing qualities is the bold mix of musical genres. The very modern sounding "Can't Touch It" is followed by "Take Me To A Place", an appealing anthem that wouldn't sound out of place on a Motown compilation. While the first seven tracks on "Brand New Day" are uniformly outstanding, the second half of the album loses some momentum. There's not a bad song to be found but "Brand New Day" becomes slightly bogged down in one too many mid-tempo grooves. "Alone No More" is beautifully sung but ultimately a rather standard ballad. "Clouds" breezily documents a case of writer's block, while "World Go By" recalls the days when Mariah Carey still made good music. Ricki-Lee's voice really is a sublime instrument.

The pace briefly picks up with the funky "It's Just Life". The throbbing beats are a welcome change after a string of slow jams. The song shares the same zen message as "Clouds" and "World Go By" but it has more bite. However, the five minute plus running time feels slightly excessive. The album's final song, "I Appreciate You", stands out from the other ballads with its beautiful strings and intimate subject matter - the song is a touching account of Ricki-Lee's relationship with her mother. "I Appreciate You" is a fitting conclusion to a very personal album. Ricki-Lee has obviously grown immensely as an artist and as a human being.

Final Verdict: Highly Recommended

Standout Tracks: "Can't Sing A Different Song", "Love Is All Around" and "Can't Touch It".

My Gripe: The hideous "Ricki-Lee as Enya" album cover.

"Brand New Day" can be purchased from Chaos, Sanity and iTunes. To find out more about Ricki-Lee check out her Myspace. Ricki-Lee also has a website but it doesn't appear to have been updated for a very LONG time!


Poster Girl said...

Ooo, you know this sort of cover/recycling thing fascinates me!

Anyway, that good an album? Wow--I'll definitely have to look into it, then!

Trash Addict said...

It's definitely worth checking out if you like mainstream divas like Xtina & Mariah - when they were still pop and didn't pretend to have credibility. "Love Is All Around" and "Can't Touch It" are superb!

Robpop said...

This CD is very strong.

Your going to hate me.

Your really going to hate me.

But I think I prefer the Agnes version.

Thats a big thing for me to say as Agnes "stole" Kick Back Relax from Clea.

The version by Rikki...is amazing...but its like...stop overdoing the song dolly!!!

Ok, the album as is a whole is FUCKING STUNNING.

I MEAN FUCKING STUNNING!!!! The production, the singing and the melody...all amazing!

Ok, I've listened to the two back to back and now I adore Rikki-Lee's version!!!

IF Kylie doesn't release her album this year.....this album might be the Australian album of the year......

If Isabel Guzman doesnt release hers this year.....she might have just gone and grabbed the award for "POP ALBUM OF THE WORLD!"

It all depends if Lady Isabel can get hers out in time.....

Trash Addict said...

Hey Rob, I'm glad you like the album. It is truly fabulous. I just think it needs one or two more upbeat tracks. The second half is a bit slow.

However, shame on you about Agnes! Her version pales in comparison to Ricki-Lee's masterpiece. I hate the cold Swedish production, not to mention Ms Carlsson's terrible voice. Ricki-Lee's version is heavenly!

Robpop said...

Oooh, I actually changed my opinion while i writing that comment. First I was "agnes is better" then I was like "WOAH!!!!! RIKKI-LEE!!!!!!!!!"

Now I think she might have the album of the year. (internationally darling...internationally!!!)

I am holding out on Kylie and Isabel.

(and a few girlband cds)

Miss Heidi Von Binterschlappen said...

Fabulous! It is the kind of album you would get down to while cruising with your homies for some hot cock action!

If you were a psychotic fuckwit closet case from Tampa.

Or you just had good taste.

Trash Addict said...

Rob, that's high praise indeed! Ricki-Lee will feature somewhere on my end of year countdown.

Jay - I'd love to cruise around Tampa cruising for hot guys, listening to Ricki-Lee. I just fear I would drive pass ROBERT blowing hobos on the street corner.

Robpop said...

She's nominated in the BEST POP ALBUM!

Trash Addict said...

$ucce$$! At this rate, Ricki-Lee will be the new Dannii in no time!

Adem IAR said...

Great review, but I hated this album. Too many slow-jams! What is this, 1994? I just felt a lot of songs relied too much on the fact Alvin the Chipmunk can *sing* rather than also including a tune with the voice. I might have to give it a second go after reading your review, though I barely survived the first time.

Anonymous said...

"At 6:56 AM, Robpop said…She's nominated in the BEST POP ALBUM!"

Thats very good news,where is Ricki Lee nominated as the Best Pop Album please?

Trash Addict said...

She's nominated here, doll:


Make sure you vote for her, I did!

Anonymous said...

Well for such a 'said' great album, it bombed bigtime in the charts. After just a tiny 2 weeks in the Top 40 debuting at # 37 it plummeted straight out quicker than it entered. Back to the Divas.

FND said...

Just got the album. I have to say its superbly strong. Im so in love with Take Me To A Place, Love Is All Around, Brand New Day and of course Cant Touch It.

Is there any remixes for Love Is All Around since the video is out. They should get big name remixers for that. The song is too huge to not be discovered.