Gabriella Cilmi - The Sting (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
SHE may still only be 21 but Gabriella Cilmi has lived a big life. You could almost call her a ‘veteran’ of the music scene – an artist who broke big, became a little exploited and is now determined to do her own thing.
The breaking big relates to her debut single, the soulful smash Sweet About Me, which notched up over 2 million sales and made the Top 10 in 16 countries. The ‘exploited’ stage relates to 2009’s Ten, which saw her adopt a more sexy image and dance-orientated musical direction that she wasn’t entirely happy or comfortable with.
The new phase is marked by The Sting, her latest album, which finds her smouldering in a different way. An easy comparison would be to say that Cilmi has adopted a husky tone similar to Macy Gray. She would counter: “I wanted it to sound the way Italian neo-realist photographs look, that post-war, ruined glamour which is really gritty and heart-breaking.”
No matter, the results are really striking. This is a maturer, more lived in soul-pop vibe than her Sweet About Me era. And it’s a really great listen.
Album opener Highway sets the standard, opening with the telling lyric “I lost my dreams along the highway” before dropping a lazy but full-fat beat and a moody, swirling electronic arrangement. By the time Cilmi purrs “it tears me up” over the chorus, you’ll know that this is one evolution that works and that Cilmi has come of age in impressive fashion.
Lead single Symmetry continues the impressive start and is a genuine standout. A piano arrangement signals its arrival, while layered beats slowly pick up the momentum. It’s a deliciously soulful track that really does come alive in toe-tapping, robust fashion. The chorus is great and genuinely rousing.
Thereafter, the album continues to impress. Sweeter in History is a moody piano ballad that resonates powerfully, Don’t Look Back finds Cilmi adopting an impossibly husky (but deliciously bittersweet) tone over a reflective acoustic and piano arrangement, and Not Sorry operates from a place of betrayal and drops in some supremely moody back-beats to stirring effect.
Left Someone Else has a blues-rock vibe that’s similarly notable, complete with brash lyrics (“I sold my soul for some fucked up guy”), Vicious Love employs a striking string arrangement over yet another deeply husky vocal and solid beat structure (call it her Fifty Shades soundtrack moment), and I Am Just A Girl drops a seductive vibe over trip-hop beats that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Morcheeba record.
In truth, though, Cilmi barely puts a foot wrong on this record. It’s a supremely classy offering with so much to admire.
Download picks: Symmetry, Not Sorry, Don’t Look Back, Left Someone Else, Vicious Love, I Am Just A Girl