I have to be completely honest here. For the most part, I'm not a huge fan of all this "pop" music that's thrown at me left, right, and center. I usually stick to the dance music, the trance music, the acid music -- yes, EDM. Electronic dance music. That's what I listen to most of the time. And it's a whole different ballpark from what's heard on the average local radio station. I don't follow suit with the main crowd; I dare to be different in a society that drools whenever Fall Out Boy blinks or whenever Paris Hilton decides that she can sing. So when a pop record as strong as "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield comes along, I begin to re-evaluate my stance on the value of popular music. 'Maybe it's not all bad.' But then, I come to the simple realization that pop is a truly divided genre; that is, there's decent heartfelt artists in this field, and then there's...the others. Thankfully, Ms. Bedingfield falls into the former category.
I bought Natasha Bedingfield's album on the day that it was released here, back in the summer of 2005. It was the right price, and I had seen the music video for "These Words" and thought that the song was nifty, so I decided to take the plunge and buy the whole album. I also had her brother Daniel's album, "Gotta Get Thru This", which was also a good album, so I figured I might as well trust the musical integrity of the entire family. It was a gamble, though, as so many albums coming out nowadays contain only two or three good songs on them and a hefty pile of filler material to back them up. But after listening to this one all the way through, I realized that there was more to it than filler. Oh yes, this was an album to be proud of!
Starting out with the reckless lyrics and slow but steady beats of These Words, Ms. Bedingfield takes on the persona of a songwriter (which she is) and shows us already that she is no ordinary songstress. This simple song with its unforgiving bassline indicates that although she is serious about songwriting, her music isn't all that serious. It's basically just a happy-go-lucky tune that was written "from the heart". This is a stark contrast, however, to the darker tone that is taken by the next song, Single, where Natasha croons about how she'd rather be single that in a relationship. A bit daft, really, but I think she's serious! It has a very bleak but catchy chorus as well, but I still wouldn't classify this as one of my favourite songs from the album, as it quickly lost its charm over the course of several listens.
Another track that has been receiving heavy airplay these days is Unwritten, where she rants on about... um... how the rest of your life remains unwritten and how it's up to you to write it the way you want it to go (did I get it right?) over a repetitive brief acoustic guitar melody. It's a very sunny song, backed up later on by an upbeat choir to compliment Natasha's glowing vocal abilities. Certainly a good choice for a single.
Silent Movie has a more classic atmosphere to it with its effective use of piano and filtering effects. The lyrics really aren't too important here; I really think the song is just another metaphor for finding love with a hard-to-get gal like Ms. Bedingfield, but I could be way off. The eventual layering of Natasha's vocals near the end is very effective in creating a musical mosaic of sorts. A top-notch track overall.
But this princess of wordsmithery is not so humble as to avoid pointing the oral faults of others. This is proven in Stumble, where she seems a bit displeased that the special man in her life gets tongue-tied every once in a while (although I could've sworn she was single). It's a very simple and sensuous song, but seriously, she really should come to an understanding that some guys are shy like that. Yeah, we stumble 'round our words. Forgive us and move on.
Peace Of Me is a mixture of contemporary acoustica and general pop-rock in one track. Her boyfriend supposedly has filled the empty spaces in her soul or...something. That's great, but her voice is rather powerful in the chorus and it shows that she can focus all her energy into her vocals when she really wants to! However, for a full-on rock experience (and actually a track that I initially didn't believe belonged here), you'll want to check out If You're Gonna... Clearly, Natasha wanted to branch out and experiment with new styles, so here's some loud electric guitars mixed with som funky electro-pop and the occasional angelic interruption. The basic message of this song is that practice makes perfect (although frankly, I just interpret lyrics the way I feel like it) and it's drilled into our minds with strong vocals.
The next track, Drop Me In The Middle has a more hip-hop feel, and wouldn't be too out of place on a Beyoncé record. Featuring the female rap skills of the mysterious Estelle, this song is actually rather funky. Considering that I'm not a particularly big hip-hop fan, this must be really good stuff. An important note is that on the UK version of this album, this song instead featured the rapping of Bizarre from D-12. I'm glad they changed it; Bizarre just doesn't belong in the same studio as Natasha Bedingfield.
We're All Mad actually is my personal favourite song on the album, which is interesting considering it's relatively demure. Yet perhaps this is a secret to its attractive nature. It's a mainly acoustic track, and Bedingfield's vocals aren't particularly powerful at any given moment, and yet I can't turn it off. It is the simplicity and the modest tone of the song that allows me to fully connect with it. There's no overblown chorus, no singular theme, but just a song plain and true. The songs that don't try to overdo it are often the best songs written.
Ms. Bedingfield has a soft side. We didn't see it in the spotlight until I Bruise Easily appeared. It's a low-key track where the fragile beauty of Natasha's gentle ego is finally revealed. This, too, is a beautiful song and should not be ignored. In fact, I'd have probably enjoyed myself if I had slow-danced to this back in high school. But I'm not in high school anymore, so such a notion is preposterous. I shall move on with The One That Got Away, which is a funky blend of another slow song mixed with an upbeat pop song! I'm not particularly sure what this song's about (and I refuse to guess what it's about), as there are just too many metaphors in this song to keep me afloat. Parts of it are danceable, but certainly not all of them.
Alright, let's get the obvious point of order out of the way. Size Matters is NOT about the length of the penis. There, now we can get all mindless snickering out of our systems and return to reality. Just at the beginning of the song, you'll know that it's a happy tune, and you'll also eventually learn that it's the size of someone's HEART that matters. There's also some weird trumpeting going on in the background at times too, but it sounds a bit too electronic... or maybe that's just me. I just don't think it fits the song at all (real brass might suffice as opposed to that Frankentrumpet).
The album ends on a somber note with Wild Horses. Natasha sings about how her life is passing by far too quickly, and how she wishes for more simple times to re-emerge, represented by the wild horses who spend their time "throwing caution to the wind". Her voice is absolutely magnificent, illustrating both the powerful and the soft aspects of her talent, as it is placed over a piano and string accompaniment. This is truly how an album like this should end: on an emotional note. Hidden at the end of the album is "Sojourn", a warm acoustic song where Ms. Bedingfield chants about what a perfect day is like for her. It sounds like it belongs on an Unplugged album... but here it is. Nothing's particularly unique about this cached tune, but it's a nifty little easter egg.
As a whole, this is a very well-constructed album with some very interesting (if not occasionally confusing to the male listener) lyrics and a fairly wide variety of sounds here. Natasha Bedingfield has proven herself to be a versatile voice to be reckoned with in the pop world, and I look forward to seeing what she comes up with on her sophomore album. This is how a pop album should be handled; there is not a song that I avoid on this album, which is more than I can say for other records. And considering my general musical preference, this album must be of excellent quality to take me away willingly from the world of electronic dance music.