[25 September 2006]
After serving as the voice of the internationally successful, but now defunct, chill outfit Morcheeba, whose album Big Calm sold 5 million copies, Skye has released a solo debut which mines much of the same vibe, to mixed results. It is clear that Skye was interested in having more control over the album’s content, as she has co-writing credit on every song. And, with Patrick Leonard (Elton John/Madonna) and the incredible Daniel Lanois (Dylan/U2/Peter Gabriel/Emmylou Harris) as producers, Mind How You Go is poised to be a pop record of the highest order. But considering the fact that there is that sneaky “co-” in there, and that she has such hands-on producers working with her every step of the way, it is difficult to think of this as anything more than a prefab pop record.
Skye’s quotes in the press release say things like, “This record is the real me” and “This record is me.” She talks about how personal this record is, about how much she is growing as a songwriter, and so forth. Now, arguments on the auteur theory in pop music can be entertaining, with strong cases made for both the songwriter (sometimes with interesting distinctions between lyric-focused writers and melody-focused writers) and the producer of the track. Every now and then, a compelling argument is made for an indelible vocalist to be the author of the song. But Skye ain’t Nina. And she doesn’t have a sole solo writing credit, any production credit, or any instrument-performance credit. In other words, Skye as an auteur is a joke.
But that doesn’t mean that the album is joke. I’m just saying that to act like this album should be reviewed as if it were Blue or Post or even Wrecking Ball is an utter mistake. If you want it treated as a Top 40 pop record, a la Dido, then you might get somewhere.
The album opens promisingly enough, with the one-two of “Love Show” and “Stop Complaining”, two strong electronic-pop tracks. Both are smartly produced, with strong hooks. In fact, “Stop Complaining” has such strong pop cadence that the line “stop complaining / it could be raining” is actually forgivable.
However, the album as a whole is essentially forgettable. The songs don’t demand attention, which isn’t necessarily a problem, but the fact that they don’t hold a listener’s attention certainly is. The lyrics are often on-the-nose (“I try not to think about evil empires and stupid fools”) or employ tired imagery (“London rains fall / Jamaica Days call”, “I’m flying / and you could be too”) and Skye’s vocals are just too passive to make me want to listen to, care about, or even believe what she is singing.
One interesting current throughout the album is the overriding optimism. I am not one to discount the positive, and with lines like “anything’s possible / wonderful / feel like I’m beautiful / natural lyrical / no longer cynical,” Skye is a strong new contender to be David Brent’s favorite pop music philosopher.