My unwritten album reviews are starting to pile up like Janet's dildos. I've been meaning to comment on the latest from Marina & The Diamonds, Ellie Goulding, Edurne, Goldfrapp and Jason Derulo (stop smirking - it's amazing!) for weeks. And while I prefer some of those CDs to the subject of tonight's post, Gabriella Cilmi's "Ten" has unexpectedly wormed its way into my heart and mind. A lot of fans are struggling with her new look and sound but I'm glad the boring bogan has been replaced by a slutty stunner with a pocketful of hot dance tunes. I think all old before their time crooners should be given a Hi-NRG makeover before menopause! Yes, it's undeniably calculated and more than a little desperate but Gabriella somehow pulls it off. The album isn't perfect by any means - the two singles have been underwhelming and a couple of unnecessary ballads drag the whole thing down - but "Ten" houses six or seven genuinely brilliant pop songs. And most of the credit has to go to Gabi. Sure, her label helped out by hiring the who's who of hot producers (Xenomania, Greg Kurstin and Dallas Austin) and hit songwriters but the diva's distinctive voice is the glue that holds the whole project together, bringing a warmth and humanity to even the most generic turd. Put your preconceptions aside and enjoy one of 2010's most endearing pop albums.
On A Mission - 6/10
The only thing that stopped "On A Mission" suffering a similar fate to Amy Pearson's vastly superior "Butterfingers" (yes, I said it!) is the fact that Gabriella actually looks good in a mini skirt. As you probably already guessed, I'm not a huge fan of the album's lead single. It's pleasant enough but the Rogue Traders were doing this shit back in 2007. I particularly hate the spoken interlude and embarrassing space video. Barbarella has been done to death (see Kylie's brilliant "Put Yourself In My Place") and Gabi should avoid performing choreography at all costs! The song's saving grace is the amazing Wideboys remix, which injects "On A Mission" with some much needed fun and energy.
Hearts Don't Lie - 7/10
So this is the second single? It's definitely better than "On A Mission" but Gabriella's disco throwback doesn't really strike me as chart gold. Admittedly, the track is something of a grower and I love Xenomania's lavish Bee Gees meets the Scissor Sisters approach to production. I just can't help but feel that something is missing. Like a decent chorus. The song also suffers in comparison to La Toya's similarly titled 80s classic "Heart Don't Lie". It's a shame because Gabi's vocal is epic and the lyrics are suitably sexy. Fingers crossed for a decent video and more hot remixes!
What If You Knew - 9/10
After a couple of early disappointments, everything comes together on "What If You Knew". Produced by The Invisible Men (Sugababes and Noisettes), this catchy little jam is so 80s it hurts. Think A-Ha meets Duran Duran with a smattering Yazoo thrown in for good measure. Yes, it's that amazing! I love the cute lyrics and appreciate the fact that Gabriella can be understated and vulnerable when the song demands it. I think this is probably too subtle to be a single but it's well worth checking out.
Love Me Cos You Want To - 10/10
"Love Me Cos You Want To" is another sublime 80s throwback (courtesy of The Invisible Men) with a big, beautiful chorus. What sets this apart from the rest of the album, however, is the song's softness and honesty. The lyrics are genuinely moving without feeling forced or manipulative and Gabriella really connects with that in her delicate vocal delivery. This would have been perfect for Kylie. If "Ten" is a massive flop, she should steal it for her next album. Dreamy pop doesn't come much better than this.
Defender - 4/10
Gabriella channels Celine on this shiteous ballad. No thanks.
Robots - 9/10
There should be a separate sub-genre for songs about robots. It seems like every bitch with a synthesizer has explored this metaphor at one time or another but Gabi's is definitely one of the better attempts. Actually, I'd probably rank this second only to Margaret Berger's legendary "Robot Song". The slick beats and romantic synths suit the subject matter perfectly. I also appreciate the clever lyrics. How lovely is this: "What if we were made from wires and spare parts? What if there was only science in our hearts?"
Superhot - 9/10
International dance sensation Luciana teams up with husband Nick Clow, Paul Harris (Kylie) and Ian Masterson (Dannii) for the album's best floorfiller. While the majority of "Ten" is soft and pretty mid-tempo electro, "Superhot" gives Gabriella some much needed edge. I actually think they could beef up the production to make it more club friendly but this is one of the album's few potential radio hits. Who doesn't want a super hot guy with a super hot ride? With all due respect to Gabi, I'd kill to hear Luciana's demo. She was born to sing this kind of tongue in cheek filth!
Boys - 9.5/10
I guess most people with a beating heart will be able to identify with this surprisingly scathing little tune. "Boys" is another viable single choice. There's nothing like a bitter break up anthem to win over the depressed gays and underappreciated housewives! Moreover, the track is fucking catchy. Gabriella brings just the right amount of attitude to the proceedings, while Dallas Austin's production is spot on. I love the heavy synths and catchy vocal hooks. Wait, is she yodelling? Whatever. I approve.
Invisible Girl - 5/10
Britney called and wants her "Blackout" demo back. Yawn.
Glue - 7/10
The lacklustre ballads really let "Ten" down. "Glue" is pleasant enough - I particularly like the faint hint of gospel in the chorus - but it's all been done before and better. Gabriella's beautiful voice makes it work but the album would have been more coherent if they had stuck to the electro-pop brief.
Let Me Know - 7/10
Was this recycled from "Lessons To Be Learned"? It's not bad by any means. I actually love the organic production and beefy chorus but what is an admittedly fun nod to Motown doing on this album? It just sounds so out of place.
Superman - 8/10
Greg Kurstin is one of my favourite producers. He gave Sia a top 40 hit and almost made Ke$ha sound classy on "Animal". Clearly, there is no limit to his talent! It comes as something of a surprise then that "Superman" isn't as great as some of the other tracks. Again, it's more "Lessons To Be Learned" than "Ten". That said, the production is suitably slinky and the intro is lovely ("falling so fast for you, I'd need a parachute"). I guess my expectations were just too high. It could be a grower.
Sweet About Me (Twenty Ten Version) - 7/10
Bitch, please! We all know you can probably retire from the proceeds of this one song but it's time to move on. The remix is actually pretty great but its inclusion here is sad and embarrassing.
Sucker For Love - 3/10
You'd be a sucker for spending cash on this lame iTunes bonus track.