As Janet once said - you don't know what you got til' it's gone and that's exactly the way I feel about Amy Pearson. Particularly after the leak of her recently scrapped "Aftershock" album. I didn't know what to expect after the career ending fabulousness of "Butterfingers" but it definitely wasn't a set of stellar urban dance tracks that would make Britney green with envy. Speaking of that sad has-been, "Aftershock" owes a lot to "Blackout". Production wise. The beats come thick and fast and the sound is distinctly American. However, the finished product is a considerabley better due to the fact that Amy can actually sing. Think Christina Aguilera covering tracks from Heidi's genre defining "Superficial" album (go with me) and you get the general idea. It's a heady mix that works surprisingly well. I can't help but think that Sony would have had a massive hit on their hands if they had chosen a less outrageous lead single. I am seriously addicted to "Butterfingers" but you can't go from the girl next door to singing about arseplay and expect your audience of suburban housewives to go along for the ride! Hopefully, Amy can release the album independently online or sell the tracks to another artist. Whatever happens, these songs deserve to be heard. I never thought I'd say it but "Aftershock" is easily the best Australian pop album I've heard this year. Here is my track by track review:
The title track was slated to be the album's second single before Sony pulled the plug. It's a shame because "Aftershock" is stunning in a Britney meets Keri Hilson kind of way. Infectious beats rain down on a series of catchy hooks and a beast of a chorus to create the perfect album opener. Amy's pipes are in great form and she doesn't sound overwhelmed by the heavy production. If this had been the lead single, I think things would have turned out very differently. It's a hot new sound but not quite as breathtakingly trashtastic as "Butterfingers".
Speaking of which, the most notorious single in recent Australian pop history comes next. I don't care what anyone says - I love this song. And not in a so bad it's good way either. The synths are amazing and that chorus is electric. Amy comes across as a modern day Vanity or Sheena Easton (during her filth phase), which is a massive compliment. However, the lyrics are just too much for the girl who sang "Ready To Fly" and the video (below) was a hot mess. I apologise for likening Amy to a drunk librarian but the styling was all wrong and that tragic (and slightly sordid) finger twirling dance routine will live on in infamy for eternity. A veritable trash classic.
Now this is just lovely. "Cold" is a mid-tempo electronic ballad that allows the diva to show a softer side. I love the lyrics and delicate production. I'd love to know who wrote and produced this song because it's really very impressive. In many ways it's a perfect stepping stone from her first album. The sweetness is still there but the sound is more contemporary and would have exposed Amy to a younger audience. This would have been my pick for a later single. It's really very, very pretty.
Oh gurl. Amy really unleashes her inner diva on this hot track. It's almost as if she's been possessed by the spirit of Sasha Fierce! "Contagious" positively drips confidence and a newfound fuck you attitude. I love a good revenge anthem and Amy slaps her hateful ex where it hurts by singing about her hot new body and saucy nightclub antics. This shit makes me want to laugh, dance and snap my fingers like Miss J all at once. The highlight is when Amy pulls off a Xtina howl halfway through the song and sings "all the hot guys lookin', they're lookin' at me"! I'm devastated that we'll never get a video.
I'm pretty sure this was produced by the man behind "Aftershock" (there was footage of Amy recordig the two songs on her Myspace) but I could be mistaken. If anyone has the writing and production credits, please send them my way. Anyway, whoever you are, congratulations on making Amy sound so fierce. "Doctor Love" isn't my favourite track on the album but the chorus is fantastic and I like the more straightforward dance sound. I just think the verses needed to be beefier and the lyrics could have been better.
Darkchild - the legendary producer behind smash hits like "Telephone", "Say My Name" and "Holler" (LOL) - was rumoured to have worked on the album and the proof is in his trademark name check. As it turns out, Amy didn't get the scraps that Lady GaGa and Beyoncé turned down as I originally expected. "Ghost" is actually one of his better efforts. I love the eerie synths in the intro and think the layered beats combine brilliantly with the simple piano line that runs through the song. The chorus is also pretty special ("since you left me alone, I've been fighting your ghost") and the lyrics ring true. Quality stuff.
Heidi called and wants her act back! This sounds like a crazy hybrid of "Twisted" and "Fanatic" - only with heavier production and vocal talent. It's a heady mix but Amy pulls it off. Almost.
I Want Your Love
Amy lifts her foot off the pedal for this catchy mid-tempo jam. The song has a distinctly urban sheen, which suits her voice surprisingly well. I particularly love the diva's rap (!) in the middle. Amy is nothing if not versatile! While there are stronger tracks on the album, "I Want Your Love" is easy to digest radio fodder with a memorable chorus. Most of us can also identify with the lyrics ("I'm not your stepping stone, just a number in your phone") and I love the telephone special effects at the beginning of the song. Yes, I'm that easy to please.
Magnetic (Ft. HR King)
HR King is one of Australia's most underrated singers, so I was happily surprised to find him on "Aftershock". It's a shame then that his duet with Amy will never see the light of day because "Magnetic" is a great track. I love the guitar riff that they built the song around and their voices combine effortlessly on the chorus. Definitely worth hunting down.
It wouldn't be an Amy Pearson album without at least one ballad and "Murder" is the perfect vehicle for the diva's powerful pipes. The murder metaphor has been done before (and better) and I found the production a little heavy handed (strings and Danja-esque beats?) but it is a nice change of pace and a reminder that despite the occasional misstep, Amy has an amazing voice.
"Puppet" reminds me of the Timbaland produced tracks on Ashlee Simpson's criminally underrated "Bittersweet World" album. Yes, it's that amazing. I love the deceptively catchy vocal hooks and the chorus is insane. The quirky lyrics are also a treat and I'm a sucker for a bit of autotune. This would have made a great single - it's radio ready and club friendly. How depressing that it will never grace the airwaves or be played in a nightclub. Boo.
Strangely, this is the one track from the album that doesn't appear to have leaked. And I'm not sure why because it's probably the best song on "Aftershock". There was even talk of it being a future single when the album was first being promoted late last year. It was written by DNA (the songwriting team behind Chris Sorbello's "So Lonely") and takes Amy back to her pop roots. Sure, the production is still faux Darkchild/Danja but the chorus and lyrics return the diva to more familiar territory. I love it and hope it turns up somewhere else in the near future.