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Reviews 09/04/2004

Album Of The Week: Anastacia

by Mikey (Gillingham, Kent. UK) - Each week I preview an album which I think deserves a listen to and if it's worth to buy, I will cater for all tastes of music from R'n'B to Rock, Hip hop and Pop. At the end of the page, you will find all future album releases.

Anastacia - Anastacia
Release Date: 29 February, 2004

The creative mind often gets inspiration from unexpected quarters. Through trauma can come insight. When Anastacia was diagnosed with breast cancer just over a year ago, the jolt out of the blue turned her world upside down. She had surgery and her recovery seems complete, but such life-threatening scares are bound to leave more than the odd emotional scar. That this is her best album to date shows her amazing gutsiness, complete perseverance and proves beyond any doubt that her talent is not to be messed with.

Worse still she had to suffer the crippling indignity of week in week out having vocally challenged hopefuls ape her throaty gurgle and murder her songs on 'Pop Idol'. Thankfully, after swift surgery, the cancer abated. Sadly, with 'American Idol 3' in full swing the teeth grinding impersonations haven't.

She's still got one of the biggest voices in music that will not only blow your own stereo away, but your next door neighbour's too. However what lifts this album above her previous two is how she uses that voice. It's not just the foghorn combined with a Tina Turner-esque growl that gets your attention, but the newfound strength she has in the subtle. There's tons more substance in Anastacia's music than there ever will be in the Celine's and Mariah's of this world, which comes with more direction, passion and true feeling to boot.

Time then for the former wedding singer to put the recent past behind her and move on. Time for a new direction and, in the case of her third album's first single, a new voice. With a high-pitched gothic quiver floating atop ambient brooding, "Left Outside Alone's" is a monster of a first single, opening strains could easily have her mistaken for Evanescence's Amy Lee. The familiar air-raid siren wail does kick in eventually, but it's bellowing to an uncharacteristically snarly, guitar-churning chorus. Yup, that's right, Anastacia's gone rock. Once the undisputed queen of overblown '80s pop, she's now chasing overblown metal melodrama.

Of course, being Anastacia, it's US rock of the bright and glossy kind. Co-writer Glen Ballard clearly drew on his experience of polishing Michael Jackson's "Man In The Mirror", not his days thrashing out Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill". The bleak quiet/loud tech-rock of "I Do" is one of the heaviest track to date, but voice and melody never get hidden in the noise, may further fuel the Evanescence comparisons and "Seasons Change's" no-metal - complete with megaphone raps - may slam like Linkin Park, but the spectre of the '80s is never far away. "Sick and Tired", is another highlight, incredible hooks, inner strength and an impossibly catchy chugging beat.

Power ballad "Heavy On My Heart" is prime for a soft focus video, fun sing-along "Sexy Single" is fun in a Roxette way and "Time" is straight out of the Bon Jovi song book of big belters. With Starship and Bonnie Tyler springing to mind every time an emotional chorus strikes up, she's hardly gunning for cutting edge cool. Indeed, if it was anyone else, they'd be laughed all the way back to the fancy dress shop they got their shoulder pads from.
Miraculously though, as with her shameless ripping-off of Chaka Khan on her previous albums, she gets away with it. Choruses are so strong, and rammed home so many times and with such unflinching conviction that they're almost unquestionable, impossible to ignore.

The only thing more staggering than the force of Anastacia's songs is that she has the energy to sing them. The affects of her illness and its draining treatment may have influenced the subject of her songs - on much of "Anastacia" her usual optimistic self is replaced by anger and frustration, fashioned into 'dump the loser' love songs - but it's not stilted her delivery. While some might have licked their wounds with quiet reflection, Anastacia's brush with death has galvanised her to be even bigger and louder.

Yes there are the occasional lyrical mouth-traps that dip into the mundane, but the whole package of sonic strength pulls it through. There's immediacy in all the tracks and an almost universal appeal. Her big fat voice is a given, but the occasional choirgirl insights show that she has more than 'loud' and 'off' on her volume selector. Fittingly, the final track is out her usually brazen mold. She puts the world to rights, and the closing acappella just adds to the effect.

Just to summarise this is the best Anastacia's album to boot, much better than Freak Of Nature, the tracks that stick out on the album are Sick and Tired, Rearview and Pretty Little Dum Dum, but on the whole the album is worth buying, you can't really fault any tracks on this album, its amazing. It just shows that Anastacia can bounce back, whatever the outcome of her career, it's a belter of an album, her passion for music is at her best and her voice suits the tracks.

01 Seasons Change
02 Left Outside Alone
03 Time
04 Sick and Tired
05 Heavy On My Heart
06 I Do
07 Welcome To My Truth
08 Pretty Little Dum Dum
09 Sexy Single
10 Rearview
11 Where Do I Belong
12 Maybe Today

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