The timing of Amy Studt's debut album, False Smiles
, couldn't be better. Building on a solid foundation established by the likes of Natalie Imbruglia
and Lene Marlin
in the late 1990s and carried forward by Gemma Hayes
and a glut of young, brokenhearted pop stars since then, Studt's songs combine piano-driven, acoustic laments with Avril Lavigne
's polished angst. "There's a hell of a lot more to me," she growls in "Just a Little Girl". Well, maybe. But what's this? She's managed by Simon Fuller, the man behind the Pop Idol
phenomenon, and a man who knows a thing or two about ready-made pop for the masses. So maybe the timing isn't a coincidence. For that matter, neither is Studt's frilly dresses, dark eyeliner and "misfit" personality.
There's no denying the genuine talent at work here. As cowriter to all of the songs on offer (an unusually prolific fourteen), she brings a teenage playfulness and daddy's little girl sweetness to the heartache her cowriters are unnecessarily inflicting upon her. In fact, you can't help wondering what some of these songs would have turned out like without the middle-aged meddling of Cathy Dennis and the like. Perhaps a young Tori Amos (particularly with the vocal leaps of "Gonna Be Fine")? False Smiles is a debut with potential, but Studt's own innocence and personality needs to shine through more in the future if anyone is to believe she's more than the superficial flash-in-the-pan that she denies being. --Cortman Virtue