In September 2010 the nation – or at least those with Sky One – held its breath as Fearne Cotton announced the winner of TV talent show Must Be the Music. As adjudicated by Jamie Cullum, Dizzee Rascal and competent, inoffensive Scottish singer Sharleen Spiteri, the victor was competent, inoffensive Scottish singer Emma Gillespie, a 27-year-old former busker, now a hundred grand richer. Instantly she had two top ten hits as downloads. This Day and Focus are included on her debut album, alongside six more of her songs, plus two covers – Bic Runga’s Drive and Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova’s Oscar-winning Falling Slowly (from the film Once).
Gillespie has a decent voice and her songs are sincere if soppy. Producer Martin Terefe, who’s steered James Morrison, K.T. Tunstall and Jason Mraz to success, has dressed her trilling and strumming lightly, with soporific, innocuous, featureless arrangements and "tasteful" strings. Stand Still is smooth-edged enough to move fast in supermarkets, but one wonders how much the world really needs another Adele or Ellie Goulding or Dido manqué. The whole thing floats by with scant emotional impact, and her popularity will be as baffling to non-believers as is that of Amy Macdonald.
Snapped up by Gary Barlow’s label (asked which writers she admires, Emma shows little imagination, citing Barlow himself, Coldplay and Goulding), Gillespie will inevitably enjoy one of the first big shifters of the year, and critics’ pleas for something with guts, darkness or ambivalence will fall by the wayside. On This Day she sings of the "cardigan on my shoulders", which is a long, long way from the spirit of Robert Johnson’s "hellhound on my trail". In the Reality TV age, perhaps we should be grateful she at least writes her own songs and won’t be shunted by the Cowell trowel into butchering Unchained Melody any time soon. Yet as, on Focus, she stretches the word "baby" into several syllables, it’s hard not to want to rush onto your tube platform without chucking ten pence into her guitar case. Like she’d need it now.
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In September 2010 Emma’s Imagination was the winner of Sky 1’s Must Be The Music
, a TV series aimed at discovering genuine musical talent. Entering the competition on a whim after walking past the local auditions in Glasgow, singer-songwriter Emma Gillespie, performing for the show as Emma’s Imagination, consistently wowed the judges–-Dizzee Rascal, Jamie Cullum and Sharleen Spiteri--and became the audience favourite with performances of self-penned songs "Focus" and "This Day" during the show’s live final at Wembley Arena. The show offered a cash prize rather than a recording deal but, having caught the attention of both Gary Barlow and Polydor President Ferdy Unger-Hamilton--who describes her as a “brilliant, original artist”--Emma signed to Polydor/Future Records.
She recorded Stand Still
in London with producer Martin Terefe (KT Tunstall, James Morrison). The album displays a lusher sound on some of the tracks, giving them the fullness Emma always heard in her head when playing them on her guitar.