The music industry can be a cruel place. A couple of years ago, Cosima was sitting close to the top of the heap. After placing 3rd on the first season of Australian Idol, Cosima scored a multi-platinum #1 hit and a gold selling debut album. Cut to 2007 and Cosima's second album, "This Is Now", misses the top 100 altogether. The irony is that Cosima has lifted her game. Words can not describe the sheer terror that 2004's "Cosima" induces. A collection of overwrought Diane Warren penned ballads, the album is almost criminally mundane. I wouldn't have even bothered listening to "This Is Now" if the first single hadn't turned out to be completely fabulous against all expectations. There's nothing as brilliant as "Keep It Natural" on the album but it is a massive improvement on her first offering and deserved to fare much better than it did. I blame the hideous cover. Here's a track by track rundown.
Keep It Natural - 9.5/10
I couldn't believe my ears when I first heard the Taylor Square remix of "Keep It Natural" in a club. Cosima not only proved that she could do more than belt out a power ballad, she managed to completely reinvent herself as a club diva. I'm still surprised by how well the new sound complements Cosima's big voice. Everything about "Keep It Natural" is excellent, from the production to the vocals and lyrics. It's a shame the Taylor Square remix isn't included on the album but this version is still high quality pop, if not quite as breathtaking.
Movin' On - 7/10
The second single from "This Is Now" is a fairly traditional break-up song. I have a feeling that this was meant to be the modern day answer to "I Will Survive" but it falls well short. That's not to say that it's not a good pop song. "Movin' On" is 4 minutes of highly enjoyable fluff. It's just not the anthem it needed to be. Cosima's voice sounds great and I like the chorus but the production is uninspired and the song is missing a hook. The Taylor Square remix from the CD single is also, surprisingly, something of a let down.
I Deserve Better Than That - 7.5/10
I ache for shit like "I Deserve Better Than That". Of all the tragic urban makeovers I can think of, this is possibly the least convincing. Cosima's ghetto groove makes "Red Blooded Woman" sound like a cut from "Straight Outta Compton". The song lacks all credibility but "I Deserve Better Than That" is not without charm. In fact, if you put Cosima's prim image to one side, the song is a lot of fun and proves yet again that the lady is at least trying to change things up. I like it - a lot!
I'm Free - 3/10
The old Cosima raises her ugly head. "I'm Free" is a dull, mid-tempo ballad with a hugely dated latin influence. My mum would probably love it but I'll give this crap a miss. The flamenco guitar is pleasant enough but "I'm Free" sounds at least a decade out of date.
Take Me Back Home - 8/10
I love a soppy ballad as much as the next fag, particularly one as understated and delicate as "Take Me Back Home". Cosima's greatest asset is her big voice (lord knows she can't rely on her charisma) but also her Achilles heal. Like most divas with powerful pipes, Cosima has a tendency to bludgeon the emotion out of a song by oversinging it. Thankfully, there is no sign of that here. Cosima has reigned her voice in and, ironically, has never sounded better. "Take Me Back Home" is unusually crisp and delicate. In fact, the song's simplicity reflects a country music influence. The result is one of the year's most charming and accomplished ballads.
I Forgive You Not - 6.5/10
You have to give the woman points for trying. 6 songs into the album and Cosima has already dabbled in 6 different musical genres. "I Forgive You Not" is Cosima's attempt to jump on the Kelly Clarkson rock/pop bandwagon and it's a pleasant, if somewhat generic and manufactured change of pace. I gave the song an extra half point for the dramatic "not" which ends the song!
Never Be A Woman In Chains - 5.5/10
"This Is Now" really is a mixed bag. Cosima's plan to demonstrate her versatility is commendable but it doesn't make for the most coherent album. "Never Be A Woman In Chains" begins like a rock anthem before sliding into a fairly innocuous girl power territory. Cosima's voice sounds great but the song sounds like something Tina Arena recorded in 1993. That's not a bad thing by any means but Cosima can do better.
So Alive - 6/10
Another ballad. "So Alive" is rather more overwrought than "Take Me Back Home" but it's strangely comforting to hear some old school Cosima. The opening piano line is lovely but the production soon becomes unnecessarily overbearing. Nevertheless, "So Alive" is a well crafted power ballad and Cosima's vocal gymnastics will have Celine Dion fans dripping.
Left Watching - 4.5/10
This really is an odd, little album. "Left Watching" begins with a guitar riff and dodgy lyrics about about Cosima wanting to keep her man before launching into a rather dreary mid-tempo chorus. It's still the early 90s in Cosima's world. "Left Watching" is a mess of styles, all of which are at least a decade past their used by date. No thanks.
Forever Young - 4/10
No, not another Alphaville cover but a boring piano ballad, complete with strings and an almost operatic vocal performance. I'm sure Cosima finds "Forever Young" deeply moving, I just find it a disappointing end to an otherwise interesting album. "This Is Now" is by no means the best pop album of the year. It's an incoherent mess of different genres and styles but this musical dog's breakfast offers the listener an intriguing insight into a talented performer who is trying hard to discover her sound. Cosima hasn't found it yet but "This Is Now" is a step in the right direction.
You can order "This Is Now" from Chaos and listen to a couple of the tracks on Cosima's Myspace. More information about this struggling diva can be found on her website.