Natasha Bedingfield - N.B.
Review by Jack Foley
BY HER own admission, Natasha Bedingfield’s sophomore album marks a shift in focus that’s representative of where she stands today.
“I want to make music that matches who I am,” she explains. “My first album was about independence and opportunism.
“I’m still very indepedent and I find it hard to let go of that freedom. But I’m in a different place now. I’ve been dating, searching for a partner, looking for Mr Right…”
Not that Natasha intends to rush into things… Lead single, I Wanna Have Your Babies may sound like she’s found the perfect partner, especially in light of its catchy, upbeat melodies.
But the song actually touches upon a female’s right to reign in their natural disposition to “rush into things” in an effort to find that elusive one – that potential father figure to their children.
It’s typical of that independent focus that helped establish Natasha as one of the UK’s biggest female pop stars – a diva to represent Britain’s equivalent to the likes of Pink and Christina Aguilera.
With a sound not too far apart from Pink, I Wanna Have… looks set to become a smash hit on both sides of the Atlantic, leading to more of the type of success that helped Natasha to be singled out by Vanity Fair as the spearhead of a new Britpop invasion and one of the faces of Gap (along with Mia Farrow and Common).
Sadly, the remainder of N.B. fails to live up to the promise shown in the single. There are good pop moments but it’s also quite serious in places and a little pretentous.
Soulmate, in particular, is earnestly delivered but with lines like “most relationships seem so transitory” and “somebody tell me why I’m on my own if there’s a soulmate for everyone” smacks of desperation more than anything.
On the whole, the album fares much better when keeping things upbeat – Who Knows, for instance, drops a set of vocals clearly inspired by Amy Winehouse’s gruff vocal style and her sassiness (the opening line states defiantly “I’m in like with you, not in love with you”).
While Tricky Angel is another confident performer that’s constructed around some fine piano loops and a smart beat that flirt with R’n‘B and soul during the chorus.
Not Givin’ Up works well, too, with some slightly more urban background electronics, a genuinely infectious beat. It’s one of a handful of songs that really will go down on the dancefloor without the need for any tinkering or remixes and which boasts near-certain crossover appeal for both sides of the Atlantic.
But with (No More) What Ifs, Natasha once again drifts towards the sentimental/vulnerable and continues to pine in spite of a rap from Eve – just as she does on When You Know You Know, another offering that tips its hat to Winehouse with a smattering of Lily Allen (this time lamenting about a failed relationship).
N.B. is therefore a patchy follow-up to Unwritten that picks its own singles. That said, they should be enough to guarantee a repeat of the success of its predecessor.
Editor’s note: For anyone pondering the album’s name, it’s a clever nod to both her name and the Latin phrase “Nota Bene” which translates to present day English as “pay attention” or “take notice”. Bet you’re glad we cleared that one up!
Download picks: I Wanna Have Your Babies, Not Givin’ Up, Who Knows, Tricky Angel