Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Soraya's Pop Masterpiece - Sin Miedo

If Soraya's "Sin Miedo" isn't THE best pop album of 2008, it comes very fucking close. The Spanish señorita has succeeded where so many A list divas have failed - by delivering a consistently excellent set of shiny dance-pop gems. This album belongs on your shelf between "Neon Nights" and "Fever". Yes, it's really that good! I first fell in love with Soraya's 80s cover albums ("La Dolce Vita" being my favourite) but "Sin Miedo" is a huge leap forward. With the exception of two slightly misguided English language tracks, all the songs are original and very contemporary. The production is now of international standard and even Soraya's image has been given a complete overhaul. This isn't so much a new direction as an entire re-birth. Here is my track by track review of Soraya's timeless masterpiece:

Sin Miedo - 8/10

I find it really difficult to review music in languages I don't understand. I'm completely in awe of bloggers like Poster Girl and Robpop, who can happily wax lyrical about Ethiopian folk albums and Finnish death metal. Lyrics are very important to me but I guess being oblivious to the finer details is kind of freeing and you really don't need to understand a word of Spanish to guess that "Sin Miedo" ("Without Fear") is an uplifting declaration of independence. One of two tracks imported from Sweden, this has the slightest whiff of Scandipop blandess. Happily, the song is saved by an iconic chorus and Soraya's impressive pipes. "Sin Miedo" is far from the best song on the album and would not have been my choice as the first single but at least the video clip is a triumph. A battered looking Soraya wanders through a graveyard before changing into stilettos and conveniently stumbling across a dance party. That kind of shit happens to me ALL THE TIME!

Para Ti - 10/10

After a promising beginning, the album really steps up a gear with the dazzling "Para Ti" ("For You"). Produced by Spain's DJ Sammy (who scored top 10 hits of his own in Australia with dance re-makes of "Heaven" and "Boys Of Summer") and written by the team behind Marta Sanchez's brilliant "Superstar", this track introduces Soraya to the dancefloor. I love the production on this. It's edgy and contemporary, while still sounding sweet and melodic. The opening synths are particularly wicked. DJ Sammy should be legally forced to collaborate with all Spanish divas!

No Siento - 10/10

"No Siento" is another stellar DJ Sammy production despite the fact that it shamelessly rips off is clearly inspired by Madonna's "Get Together" (it's particularly obvious around the line "Nunca más me harás sufrir"). On the bright side, DJ Sammy at least has the good taste to copy that old whore's last decent single and this is a rare example of an imitation that surpasses the original. I love everything about this track - from the ethereal electro sound palette to the subtlely catchy chorus. However, the biggest revelation for me is Soraya's voice. I'm used to her belting out songs but the amount of variation on display here is a surprise. I love the softness and sexiness she exudes. I'm not sure why she can't seem to show this side in her English material.

Duele - 9/10

The beats come thick and heavy on this mid-tempo groove couresty of Ten Productions - the production house behind Soraya's last two albums and Brigitte Nielsen's amazing "No More Turning Back"! Dannii seriously needs to hire these guys. They make great, uplifting pop music and can't be that expensive if Gitta can afford them! "Duele" isn't the catchiest song on "Sin Miedo" but there's something utterly hypnotic about it. The track also offers an interesting change of pace after a string of upbeat floorfillers. I'd love to know what this is about. Poor Soraya sounds a bit forlorn. I think some fucker has been messing with my princess!

La Noche Es Para Mi - 7.5/10

The second song on the album penned by Swedes and once again, it's ever so slightly underwhelming. I love the middle eastern beats (courtesy of the team at Ten Productions) and the occasional English sentence but something is missing. The chorus doesn't really work for me and the few lyrics that I can understand are seriously tacky: "Tus ojos son un volcán" - basically, "your eyes are a volcano". A guy with red, glowing eyes? Poor Soraya is dating the anti-christ! Interestingly, there is talk that this could be Spain's 2009 Eurovision entry - although she faces stiff competition from the amazing Rebeca in Spanish pre-selection. Despite my reservations about "La Noche Es Para Mi" (The Night Is Mine), I think it would go down well at Eurovision. It's just inane enough to win over viewers and it sounds like a cross between Sertab's "Every Way I Can" and Ruslana's "Wild Dances". Eurovision nerds might be interested to note that two of the songwriters (Dimitri Stassos and Irini Michas) also have a tune entered in Melodienfestivalen (Swedish pre-selection) called "Alla", which will be performed by Sofia. I'm sure that bitch has nothing on Soraya!

Caminaré (Duet with Kate Ryan) - 10/10

Soraya's second duet with Kate Ryan is an absolute triumph. The cover version loving ladies first teamed up for "No Digas Que No" on the Spanish version of Kate's "Free" album but "Caminaré" is a massive improvement on that dud. In fact, this is one of the best songs on "Sin Miedo". Soraya and Kate harmonize wonderfully and the blend of Spanish and French is beautiful. There's also a touch of melancholy about the chorus that I find strangely touching. The first time I heard it, I was convinced it was yet another example of Kate reviving an obscure Euro hit ("Ella Elle L'a", "Voyage Voyage" etc) because of the distinct Italo disco flavour (someone has been listening to a lot of Moroder) but it's an entirely original composition. I just wish Kylie and Dannii's duet had sounded half this good.

Piel Contra Piel - 10/10

DJ Sammy returns for another expertly crafted dance anthem with "Piel Contra Piel" (Skin Against Skin). There's something incredibly atmospheric about this track. It's dark, sexy and a just a little bit naughty. In other words, it's the perfect soundtrack to Soraya's saucy FHM photoshoot! DJ Sammy really has done an amazing job on this album. His tracks are all uniformly excellent but incredibly diverse in sound. Each track explores a different dance sub-genre while staying true to Soraya's pop sensibility.

Give Me Your Love - 8.5/10

Soraya wrote "Give Me Your Love" (her only writing credit) with Spanish DJs Magan & Rodriguez. If you haven't seen the sleazy video to their dance smash "Suck My", check it out. I never thought peeling a zucchini could be so erotic! Unfortunately, "Give Me Your Love" doesn't involve sexy times with vegetables but it's still fabulous. The team from Ten Productions provide a memorable array of pristine beats and kooky sound effects, while Soraya does her best sex kitten impersonation. I particularly love the non-sensical English lyrics: "Give me your heart and nara nana nana na"! I'm guessing that was our queen's contribution. Singer, nude model, songwriting genius - Is there no end to Soraya's amazing talent?!

Uno En Un Millón - 7/10

An impressive list of people have lent their talent to "Sin Miedo". "Uno En Un Millón" (One In A Million) was written by William Luque, who has collaborated with the likes of Natalia, D'Nash, Chenoa and Spain's greatest export - Las Supremas! He's obviously a man of exquisite taste. "Uno En Un Millón" is a very solid album track but it's not a standout. I like the punchy verses and uplifting chorus but it lacks the edge of tracks like "Piel Contra Piel" and "Para Ti".

Ángel Caído - 10/10

The final Spanish language track on the album is pure pop perfection. "Ángel Caído" (Fallen Angel) is DJ Sammy's most commercial contribution to the album and really would have made a brilliant first single. It's the catchiest track on "Sin Miedo" and one of the best pop songs I've heard all year. "Ángel Caído" actually reminds me a little of Kylie's "Butterfly" - it's an unusually beautiful dance anthem, complete with gorgeous synths and an uplifting chorus. I love Soraya's voice on this. She conveys a softness and a sense of joy that is utterly contagious. I just wish Soraya would record an English version - "Ángel Caído" has international hit potential.

Rebound - 6/10

"Rebound" gets my vote for the worst song on the album. Originally performed by the tedious German girlband Monrose, this song was pretty average to begin with. Admittedly, Soraya's version is a massive improvement and I'm pleased to note that her English pronunciation has improved greatly - even since last year's "La Dolce Vita". I just think this is superfluous. The original tracks on "Sin Miedo" are all superior to this tat. It's not awful by any means but "Rebound" feels like a small step backwards.

Love Is All Around - 8/10

I expected the worst when I saw this in the tracklist. "Love Is All Around" has to be one of the most covered songs of the decade. The charisma free zone that is Agnes Carlsson ruined it originally before Ricki-Lee turned it into something extraordinary. Since then it's been covered by pop stars in Asia and South Africa. As the queen of cover versions, I guess it's only fitting that Soraya has a go at making it her own. She doesn't quite match Ricki-Lee's version but her "Love Is All Around" is a pleasant surprise. It's been given a cute dance makeover and really showcases her improved English vocals.

"Sin Miedo" should be Soraya's ticket to cult diva status around the world (move over Kate Ryan and September), which is lucky because I get the feeling Spain is not particularly interested. When I was there people generally rolled their eyes when I mentioned her name, a shop assistant offered to show me some "good" cds to buy instead and a record exec dissed Señorita Arnelas as a washed up reality star. I hope they all burn in hell!


Matt said...

Sounds fab but where can we buy it? Its not on OZ itunes :-(

Aaron said...

I LOVE This album!

Kinda Disagree with Sin Miedo - It's defintely one of the best. Para Ti is great! I do like Duele, but it's not a standout. La Noche Es Para Mi is a standout - and will go down really well at Eurovision - It's also got Elena Paparizou elements too.

Caminare is beautiful - but I preferred Tonight We Ride, Piel Contra Piel is FANTASTIC! I can't love Give Me Your Love - it's just a little off. Uno En Un Million is really pretty and one of my favourites. Angel Caido is also pretty. I like Rebound - love what she's done, but not massive on her version and Love is All around should never have been released....

Robpop said...

For my blog I have attempted to do a best of 2008 piece. I failed. Its not done yet and I doubt it will be done.

However, in it Soraya wins best album hands down. With the hair that mirrors Robyn's severe 'bob', Soraya was always going to make an impression with this product. Yes its flopped. But thanks to the internet, who gives a fuck about charts. Its about the music now. No baggage.

This CD is a great combination of everything that I adore in pop music. The writers+producers of Sweden, Spain and DJ Sammy. I have to say...that some of the DJ Sammy songs sound like updated Loona tracks from her early material but thats never EVER a bad thing. Basically, this album comprises of pop sounds reverberating out of my three favourite pop countries: Germany, Spain and Sweden. All it needed was some kind of Soul Seekerz/Freemasons remix and it would be up there with amongst the classics.

Every song on the album has its strong points. Even the dodgy covers. Its so interesting that the one cover with Kate Ryan eclipses Ryan's album. (To improve Soraya's weak positions perhaps ValeMusic could release Ángel Caído or Caminare).

Its funny people roll their eyes at Soraya. She's as camp as tits. I'll always support a former air stewardess. I've supported her since the debut album. And all through the rather weird yet ever so much fun cover albums. I remember writing in 2006 how fab Soraya was. Then in 2007 I came a major Soraya fan. Her video for Call Me....touched me in a deep space.

It includes a pink feather duster, Soraya sniffing a lobster and two Spanish shirtlifters shirt-lifting their way into pop heaven.

Mike, we should have been in that video!


Robpop said...

Its interesting...with the flop...that they were actually going to launch this album with Para Ti and at the last minute changed their minds and decided to go with the title track. I think Para Ti might have had a stronger chance of performing better. I would have gone with Sin Miedo as the second single.

Then Piel Contra Piel and then...Ángel Caído.

And darling, ethopian folk! Its subline ;-) hehe

Poster Girl said...

It's SO great to see Soraya and this album get some respect. I absolutely agree that "Para Ti" is better than "Sin Miedo." Poor Soraya--how is anyone in Spain supposed to be encouraged to make a good pop album that actually takes a little effort to put together when this didn't do well? Great rundown, though.

I loved the Kylie review (I'd love to see her live) and the Labelle song, by the way--I'm just an awful commenter.

Anonymous said...

I love Soraya! She's what's missing in American pop, that's for sure. Is she a dyke?

Jay said...

Fabulous! I like her though I didn't get the album on my last trip - I hope they still have it in Discos Noda...

Scarlett said...

I'll have to have a look for this album - your review sold me on Soraya! :D

By the way - hope you have a very merry Christmas!! :)

Mike said...

Agnes version of Love is all around is way, way, better than Ricki-Lee's.
And you are a complete idiot!