This review was submitted by Philip Lickley. To contribute to All-Noise, send your music news, views and reviews to firstname.lastname@example.org…
Emele Sandé – ‘Our Version of Events’
Buy Our Version of Events
I first came across Emele Sandé on the opening track of Professor Green’s debut album and was impressed by her contribution and so, in the light of her second appearance on his second album single ‘Read All About It’ – plus contributions to Chipmunk and Wiley tracks along the way – and subsequent impressive solo singles, it would be natural for me to pick up her debut album Our Version Of Events to give it a spin.
But does it stand up with her promising contributions and work with many other artists listed in her copious ‘thank you’ section in the booklet liner notes? Well, that’s a question I can only answer with a yes and a no.
Our Version Of Events is an album that has spawned several strong singles so far but, as a whole album, doesn’t have a package of songs as strong as a whole as those individual elements.
It opens with the first single, the well composed ‘Heaven’ kicking the album off with a building instrumental section, the drums signalling the start of a track that perfectly showcases Sandé’s impressive vocal range and song-writing skills, with a great mix of brass, strings and a catchy bridge and chorus that stick quickly in your mind, plus a false start one minute in that adds to the building up of the song. Throw in a breakdown and a powerful return and this is an opening that is difficult to fault.
Follow up ‘My Kind of Love’ is a more downbeat song but still includes the drum beat style that dominates a lot of the songs here. With echoing harmonies and an atmospheric production that you can easily get lost in, this is a worthy successor to ‘Heaven’ though not up to that level, and its sudden end hits you hard. ‘Where I Sleep’ is an emotive ballad with a touching chorus that is again a great showcase for her powerful voice on top of a drum and string dominated backing. It’s a song that’s lyrically and musically great but doesn’t really have the time to impress over its short two-minute running time.
‘Mountains’ is a quieter, more reflective, track though still with the familiar established ingredients brought by the producers of the album, but it never really reaches the heights that a mountain would.
‘Clown’ is much more piano-focussed and a chance for a slight shift in style which brings a needed change at this point in the album, creating the song that is the best contender for next single. A lighters-out track with a nod to the X-Factor style of singing, this is one of the highlights of the album. Second single ‘Daddy’ follows and though I don’t enjoy it on its own as a cut from the album, it does seem much better at home here on the album, though as it heads into the chorus the song does seem to suggest it will be better than it is when it arrives. A well-written and performed song that kicks the album up a notch, but you are left wondering why ‘Naughty Dog’ gets a credit for this track on the album cover but none of the others on which he also has production duties.
As the 49-minute long album continues we get a trio of par tracks, from ‘Maybe’ with its sweeping instrumental and powerful vocals, to the similar sounding ‘Suitcase’. ‘Breaking the Law’ is a much more stripped-back track based around a guitar and benefits from a top chorus and a bigger focus on her voice, though I do sense a little bit of distortion here and there on this song.
‘Next To Me’ which follows is the definite star attraction of the album with a great rag piano riff and drum beat, plus memorable lyrics and an utterly catchy chorus with its gospel and soul touches and the ability to make some simple ‘ooh’ lines so addictive. The most polished track on the album and the most interestingly produced of the collection:
The final main three tracks of the album continue the quality. ‘River’ is another piano-based ballad with echoes of ‘Next To Me’ in its structure and sound, leading to it being one of the better tracks, and ‘Lifetime’ which swaps the formula for a little bit with a more uptempo and interesting composition.
‘Hope’ is a thumbs-up end to the album with some rousing lyrics calling for change, but it’s actually the bonus track that really draws the album to a conclusion, and I’m not sure why it is given the moniker of a ‘bonus track’ as it does include the name of the album within its lyrics.
Turning Alicia Keys on us, the final track is an interpolation of the Professor Green number one ‘Read All About It’ with the rapping and production dropped, a simple piano backing put in and some extra verses added. Subtitled ‘Part III’ (what happened to part 2!?), it’s Sandé’s version of ‘Empire State of Mind’ with some beautiful lyrics built around the familiar chorus and is a perfect way to bring the album to a closer.
Overall, Our Version Of Events is an enjoyable album to listen to with Sandé’s powerful vocals and lyric writing skills clearly present. Coming a few weeks after the release of Born To Die by Lana Del Rey, the first female singer-songwriter of 2012 to really emerge, the highs of this album in the form of ‘Heaven’ and ‘Next To Me’ are higher than what is on that album, but what is missing is the consistency of Del Rey’s comparative debut, with the album tracks being good, but not great.
Emele Sandé has proved herself on this album to be an excellent singer but is let down by formulaic production and some less than exciting pairings of tracks around the excellent high points. As a debut album it’s definitely worth picking up and there is much to enjoy during its running time, with the faster, more uptempo tracks all a pleasure to hear compared to the less exciting ballads, but I feel she needs some stronger b-tracks to really make her next album a must buy.