"This is how it feels, now I'm finally smiling on the inside." -- Natalie Imbruglia, 'Glorious'

This one‘s for Annette.

Music Natalie Imbruglia’s wikipedia biography includes an extremely detailed recording history. After the seminal White Lillies Island in 2001, she recorded a third album ready for 2003 which was rejected by the record company as being too rock orientated. She refused to record to fluff with some Scandinavian pop producers to placate her masters and left that company in 2004. Counting Down The Days was released in 2005, and whilst not quite as striking as the earlier two, still had enough power to make you wonder what she’d be doing next. She began work on the official album four at the end of that year and we’re still waiting -- but then you can’t rush perfection. That work is slated to appear early in 2008.

In the meantime, coming this September we have a singles collection which as is the custom nowadays, also features five new songs. I hate that ploy. If you're a fan and a supporter you will have already bought everything else that the artist has produced so you're essentially forking out a tenner plus some coins for a couple of new tracks. Then, beforehand, the record company will release one of the new tracks as a taster, in this case Glorious which you'll inevitably buy making the whole best of proposition even less attractive. Is, then, Natalie's new single, good enough advertising for everything else?

I’ve been desperately trying to avoid the video which has been getting airplay across freeview so that could enjoy it unsullied straight from CD. I think it’s best described as grower. It sees Natalie in happy mood, describing those moments when you discover that yes, actually it is possible for you to know what it’s like to be in love and indeed what it’s like be in love in that special way. In the first verse it’s walking along Frith Street (in Soho?) in the early morning glow in the second verse it’s at home drinking wine and dreaming.

Happy pop is a tricky mix to pull off. As people who listened to Alanis Morissette’s recent albums, being in a good mood and happy does not good records make. On the one hand you’ve got Natasha Beddingfield’s mixed messages in I Wanna To Have Your Babies which is catchy if scary and on the other the cool P45 that was Sheryl Crow’s Wildflower album, eleven Diane Warren-style ballads apparently inspired by her love for now ex-boyf Lance Armstrong which at no point seemed like the work of the somebody who produced any of the previous albums (new rock album coming soon apparently). This is probably somewhere in between, happy without being too cloying about it and with some atmosphere.

It’s also a fairly brave to produce a single like this when the rest of the pop world looks like the Sugababes, Girls Aloud, Lily Allen, Amy Whinehouse and Kylie and I don’t think it’s going to pull over that crowd. But it does make a change to hear pop music purposefully and resolutely unaffected by R&B, D&B or dance music, taking its cues from rock music instead. From the opening acoustic guitar chord onwards, the kind of pop music that can be played with a band on stage sounding much the same, but still making Avril Lavigne sound hardcore, but with an obvious thought and maturity and despite the multiple writing credits somehow very personal. The b-side, That Girl is also pleasingly old school, looking back nostalgically in the direction of Sandie Shaw topping off a package which is just enough to convince me that the singles collection is worth looking forward to after all.


Annette said...

Hey, thanks. You're so right about happy pop, I never really know what to do with it. Glorious does sound promising though, at least as far as I can tell from the snippet of it on her website. Not exactly "That Day" but what is?

Stuart Ian Burns said...

It's not -- it's more in the 'Torn' range. I think 'That Day' will turn out to be her masterwork in the end.

Anonymous said...

i really like your review; Natalie herself has always said that she finds happy songs the hardest to write because it's easy for them to sound really cheesy. but i think Glorious has turned out, well, gloriously; it's so up-lifting, i think even the most bitter person would have to admit to feeling happy after listening to it! Natalie is always good value for money, and i can't wait for her fourth album. i will also be buying the Singles Collection, simply because i know that it'll be worth it, even if it means i only get 4 tracks that i haven't already got.