Scottish Pop with Emeli Sande

One of our German writers, Elisabeth Hergt, reviews a major label favorite of hers, Emeli Sandé. The musician’s album, Our Version of Events, is out March 9 in Germany.

Scottish singer Emeli Sandé, who started out as a songwriter for artists like Chipmunk, Susan Boyle, Leona Lewis, Cher Lloyd and Tinie Tempah, is releasing her debut album to international audiences this spring. Our Version Of Events is a powerful, well-produced collection of songs that has already gone platinum in the United Kingdom. Sandé is a major-label artist with a humble upbringing and an honest love for music. She draws from classic artists like Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell and Lauryn Hill, and her songwriting style is described as beautifully honest, filled with raw emotion and a calming tone.

Sandé’s breakthrough single “Heaven,” which reached No. 2 on the U.K. charts in 2011, opens the album energetically, as one of the fewer upbeat, dancier songs (not to mention, it’s reminiscent of the late Ms. Houston). The song is the first presentation of the artist’s expansive vocal range, mixed with a strong drumbeat and horns. The album’s other two singles, “Daddy,” and “Next To Me” are just as poppy and memorable, adding studio effects and various keyboards.

Our Version Of Events’ second track “My Kind Of Love,” is a slow jazz ballad that shines through the beauty of its gospel chorus. Sandé’s three-octave voice is made for such a song. Contrastingly, “Where I Sleep” lacks character and soul, and shows the least amount of major-label staying power; it is a basic pop song meant for mainstream radio play.

“Mountains” brings a new sound. Sandé’s voice is really deep, dark and fragile, but she still sings positively about “climbing mountains” together. Positive thinking seems to be a common theme in the musician’s work, however the song “Clown” features more cynical lyrics: “From the distance my choice is simple / From a distance I can entertain / So you can see me, I put makeup on my face / But there’s no way you can feel it from so far away.” The track is a beautiful, melancholic pop ballad that speaks to every listener.

The album has its weaknesses during the tracks “Maybe,” “Suitcase,” and “Lifetime,” where the singer doesn’t show much vocal variation and the songs remain pretty unimpressive, sounding a little too much like popular Beyonce storylines from previous years. The artist redeems herself on the song “River,” where her voice is accompanied by a simple piano track and the lyrics show a little more depth: “See maybe I’m too quiet for you / You’ve probably never noticed me / But if you’re too big to follow rivers / How you ever gonna find the sea?”

Another simple vocal/piano charm on the album is the track “Hope,” a we-can-change-the-world song that is co-written and produced by Alicia Keys. The song delivers a proud modern-day message, but one must question what that means in today’s world, where major labels and their artists seem to sometimes naively involve themselves in third-world problems, just because they have the financial resources.

The last track “Read All About It (Pt. III),” released as a collaboration with Professor Green in 2011, is lyrically the artist’s strongest material, however the album credits an additional five authors that helped the singer complete the song. Nevertheless, it is the proper closing song as it again puts Sandé in a flattering spotlight. It’s another lyrically me-and-you anthem with political coloring: “Let’s get the TV and the radio to play our tune again / It’s bout time we got some airplay of our version of events / There’s no need to be afraid, I will sing with you my friend / Come on come on.”

Our Version Of Events is an overall successful album. Not every song does the musician’s great talent justice, but perhaps that’s the result of her working with such big names, under the microscope of a big label.

Emeli will be playing her debut in Germany on March 28 in Berlin and March 29 in Cologne.

–Elisabeth Hergt