6 November, 2013 in Music Reviews
Mike Batt and son help Ketevan Melua continue her dominance of the adult contemporary pop market with ‘self-titled’ sixth album
emember when Katie Melua first burst on the scene 10 years ago? Maybe ‘burst’ isn’t the best word to describe it — she emerged serenely like a breath of fresh air, at a time when the UK music scene was breeding Pop Idols in the shape of Gareth Gates and David Sneddon. It was 2003 when, at the tender age of 19 but with a mature head on her shoulders, the angelic singer-songwriter from Georgia hit the top of the album charts with her debut Call Off The Search. This was many years before the charts were full of acoustic guitar-wielding female singer-songwriters, where now the likes of Taylor Swift, Gabrielle Aplin and Nina Nesbitt are commonplace.
Ten years on, we find Katie (or Ketevan, as was her original Georgian name) releasing this, her sixth studio album, on her 29th birthday. An apt landmark for another confident collection of mature pop songs that are still old beyond her years. Emotive ballad Never Felt Less Like Dancing is the slow-burning opening gambit which showcases Katie’s vocal control that her decade-long career has helped develop, and channels the spirit of easy listening singers like Eva Cassidy and Karen Carpenter. And there’s plenty more where this came from.
Being that Mike Batt is credited with discovering the teenage singer, and has been co-writer throughout her career, it’s no surprise that he had a hand in writing almost every song on this album. However, his son Luke has seamlessly joined the team and his solo effort The Love I’m Frightened Of is beautifully melodic, with thoughtful, witty lyrics explaining that love has “No detailed instructions or Japanese symbols like you find on a washing machine”. There’s more humour with ukulele ditty Idiot School, where Katie declares “If there was a stupid degree, I’d be a qualified klutz,” and the Joan Of Arc referencing lyric of Mad, Mad Men.
It’s her gloriously smooth vocal delivery, coupled with Batt’s classic production style, that provides Ketevan’s cinematic high points, taking songs into the realms of musical theatre (Sailing Ships From Heaven) and, with its bombastic orchestration, Love Is A Silent Thief comes close to Bond theme territory. Elsewhere, the chugging rock ‘n’ roll of Shiver And Shake channels Melua’s namesake KT Tunstall, even coming close to Black Horse And The Cherry Tree ‘woo-hoo-ing’, before shifting to a Lana Del Rey styled middle eight.
Unsurprisingly Ketevan appears purpose-built for the Radio 2 demographic, but she owes the listeners a debt of gratitude for adopting her from the very beginning, when Terry Wogan championed her initial releases. Don’t expect any surprises, but it’s an elegant album to warm the soul through this bleak cold winter ahead. Its drama and colourful storytelling that means Katie Melua will comfortably fill theatres up and down the country.
Verdict: Squeaky clean adult contemporary pop built for Radio 2 and theatres the world over