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That difficult second album....
on 4 April 2010
Like many people, I first encountered Gabriella when she was supporting Nouvelle Vague in 2008, and was blown away by her raw talent. An extrememely solid debut album, 'Lessons To Be Learned' followed, showing that she was no mere flash in the pan. Like many artists, she was faced with the dilemma of producing a copy of her successful debut or going in a different direction. 'Ten' is that different direction, following a more electro/pop template.
It begins strongly with two crackers,'On A Mission' and 'Hearts Don't Lie'. They're undeniably derivative, but pop gold nonetheless. Then everything seems to get a bit lost, only coming up for air with the cheekily sassy 'Superhot'. Many of the tracks seem to rely on Gabriella's upper register rather than the gutsy vocal she's capable of. The album ends with a bonus track, an electro reworking of 'Sweet About Me'. This is excellent, at least as good as the original and possibly better. However, the reappearance of 'Sweet About Me' presents a problem for 'Ten'. On 'Lessons To Be Learned' it was one of a number of standout tracks on a strong album; its presence here only seems to accentuate how few of the preceding tracks can hold a candle to it.
This is not to say that 'Ten' is a bad album. It's clearly aimed the current pop market and on those terms it has some success. It's at least as good as 'Hands' by Little Boots and significantly better than the La Roux debut. However, compared to Gabriella's own debut it sounds somehow... generic. When I heard 'Lessons To Be Learned' I though it was the album of an artist with some longevity. 'Ten' seems to be the album of an artist who will sell this year but be off the radar in two years' time.
I hope this isn't the case. I still think Gabriella is amazingly talented, but following the current pop herd isn't for her. It's important to remember that this is Gabriella's second album and she's not yet twenty. This is only the beginning of her career and I'm confident that she'll produce superior work in the future. However, it would be interesting to hear what she thinks of 'Ten' in ten years' time...