tue 13/04/2021

CD: Natalie Imbruglia - Male | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Natalie Imbruglia - Male

CD: Natalie Imbruglia - Male

Former pop pixie goes 'mature and sophisticated' - how does it suit?

Imbruglia: musical street-cred?

Is it really 18 years since Natalie Imbruglia had her mega-hit “Torn”? Since then her musical career has been pretty low-key. This week, however, she returns with Male, an album of covers all originally sung by men. More significant, though, is that, as a playlist they wouldn’t sound out of place in a hipster coffee shop. So, is the former soap star reaching out for a bit of musical street-cred?

Is it really 18 years since Natalie Imbruglia had her mega-hit “Torn”? Since then her musical career has been pretty low-key. This week, however, she returns with Male, an album of covers all originally sung by men. More significant, though, is that, as a playlist they wouldn’t sound out of place in a hipster coffee shop. So, is the former soap star reaching out for a bit of musical street-cred? Or is pulling off convincing versions of tracks by Death Cab for Cutie and Daft Punk just a little too ambitious?

For the most part, it would seem so. As perky and likeable as her voice may be it’s also completely devoid of gravitas; which is precisely what many of these songs seem to demand. They're not jangle-pop, or even dreamy indie – they're the likes of Tom Petty and Pete Townsend.

If, then, her vocals are not an obvious fit to the music, maybe they work in contrast? Like Nouvelle Vague did with their lounge version of Modern English’s “I Melt with You”. Indeed, Imbruglia attempts the same song here. But whereas the French band's version was tongue-in-cheek, there’s nothing ironic or subversive about Imbruglia’s reading. Nor does it really give an interesting female twist. It just seems flimsy.

And so it goes on. “I Will Follow You into the Dark”, a song about religion, death, and romantic obsession, is especially miscast. Rather than an exploration of the soul, Imbruglia's version sounds more like a lovesick Valley Girl. Still, all is not lost. Two songs go part way to redeeming the project. Firstly the Aussie singer borrows some Hayseed Dixie-style banjos to give The Cure’s “Friday I’m in Love” a breezy, jaunty feel. Most impressively, though, her cover of Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” comes over more sad and tender than either the original or St Etienne’s version. Who’d have thunk?

Overleaf: watch Natalie Imbruglia's video for "Instant Crush"

As perky and likeable as her voice may be it’s also completely devoid of gravitas

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2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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