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The Education of Pixie Lott
on 14 November 2011
If this is any indication of how Britain's pop stars are faring in 2011, all is well in the UK. Pixie Lott's sophomore effort is as fun as it is relevant to the genre she has comfortably settled into. Her newest album if filled with danceable tracks with quick beats and the party swagger necessary and needed to keep the discos open all night.
This is a bi-continent recording, as she jetted from Los Angeles to London to put this release together, and part of the album is fun and fresh, but in a few spots it's a bit forced as she grabs you by the hand to come and play play play NOW on the dance floor no matter what you're thinking! Whew!
(For this review I'm listening to the Deluxe Edition, which has 20 tracks instead of the regular 14.)
01. Come Get It Now - what if Amy Winehouse had made happy tracks like Jessie J? This is the answer, and it still has that wonderful slightly soulful edge to it that makes it a fun listen. The boy on the dance floor should be paying more attention to her...
02. All About Tonight - this was her first release from this new album, and as we all know it hit number one as soon as it was released, and rightly so. It shows the new direction of Ms. Lott, and the dance music (and her new attitude) has never been poppier.
03. What Do You Take Me For? (featuring Pusha T) - her attitude was never more apparent than on this track, which got as high as number 10 on the British charts on October 2011. Pixie channels her Pink "girl power" finest as she tells her boy to hit the bricks and keep walking. Pusha T's New York Bronx rap in the middle of the track only balances this song out, as Ms. Lott pushes the envelope a little too hard here in her copying of her female American counterpart, but still it's the kind of song teen girls should hear, as Pixie's message is clear: they have more to offer than just their bodies.
04. Nobody Does It Better - Now that the dance tracks have been put forward, it's time to take you back a few years and show you who Pixie originally was. She's a mix of blue-eyed soul and R&B fabulousness, and this track proves that out. Once again, if Amy Winehouse had gone this way, this would have been the result.
05. Kiss The Stars - she got a little too close to Justin Bieber-land here in such a over-the-top pop tune, and it borders on Katy Perry garishness. I just have to keep telling myself that this is Pixie Lott as this song continued. This is her anthem for the album, and she confirmed it: she's an automatic dance track robot maniac, and she loves it. I tried to...
06. Stevie On The Radio - here's one of the better songs on the album, as she pays tribute to that unforgettable Motown sound that took over England in the late 1960's and early 1970's. This has the soulful relaxing feel of someone who is so comfortable with her sound she thought, why not? The legendary Stevie Wonder plays harmonica during the break, and I'm expecting this will become a hit for her, and this is one of the better playable tracks on the album, hands down, period.
07. Everybody Hurts Sometimes - this is the ballad song of the album. All the tricks are here: the solo piano? check. The sweeping orchestral background? check. Sad, meaningful lyrics? check. A top 40 hit for Pixie? Maybe. I liked it, but I've heard this kind of song AT LEAST 10 times this year from other artists who have used this same well-worn formula. Sorry, nothing new here.
08. Dancing On My Own (featuring Marty James) - hooking up with Los Angeles-based hip-hop master Marty James, she gives us the slow jam of the brokenhearted. In this track they both give their sides of the breakup as the song continues on. This is a much better effort than the previous song, but Mr. James does almost as much rapping as she sings throughout. Still, it's a good updated version of the "he said she said" song.
09. Love You To Death - I've heard this somewhere before, the tone, the sound, but I can't place it, however it's got a Rhianna feel as Pixie moans and cries over the lament of a lover who won't let go of you, ever. This might become another top 40 hit if she gives it a chance, as it's a good and honest straightforward track of the love song for 2011.
10. Birthday - she's so happy that you're here it's like it's her birthday every time you're around. That's the song. It's a mid-tempo song filled with all the right lyrics, including "it's my f----n' birthday!" Okay, Pixie, slow down a bit - love songs are fine, but she's pushing the envelope here a bit.
11. Bright Lights (Good Life) Part II (featuring Tinchy Stryder) - Here is the song that shows off Pixie's "street cred" and stretches it out as long as she can here, with assist from fellow Brit rapper Stryder. After working with such other rappers as N-Dubz and Dappy, he lends his (brief) vocals to a track that practically screams the London nightlife, and is all at once mellow, then danceable, and then relaxes it's grip on your imagery. It's a good track overall, but I have to ask: where's Part I to compare Part II to? And why do modern R&B singers have to do that goofy naming system? Strange...
12. Perfect - this almost has a bit of a 70's vibe as she tells us that you've made everything perfect, in every way possible for her. It's a nice lite track. That's about it.
13. You Win - Pixie now channels Adele's sound with a wonderful retro 60's soul tribute, and she scores big time here. Despite the modernized lyrics ("you're my number one stunner" etc.) the vibe is once again Motown-meets-Camden-town, and once again I'm reminded of Amy Winehouse's sad sound as well. This should DEFINITELY be a hit if she releases this as a single. One of the best - and most unique - tracks on the album, despite the familiar vibe.
14. We Just Go On - Despite the end of the world, and the end of everything else, we still have each other to hold on to, and isn't that what it's all about? This sweeping slowness is the second (and final) ballad of the album, and it shows a natural maturity as the music provides the soundtrack to her life, and this album. It's a decent ending to a good album overall.
- - - For the Deluxe Version there's 6 additional songs - - -
15. Till The Sun Comes Out - a fun dance track that you could throw on as you're cruising along the A5 to the M1 to who knows where? The Daft Punk tribute to repetition comes out towards the end but it's one of those songs you'll hear on lite stations all over the world.
16. The Thing I Love - the more I listen, the more I get this urban soul vibe from Pixie. This is never more evident than on this song, which is stereo fabulous. It's poppy, and fun, and can be played anywhere - once again, lite stations will play this one to death again.
17. I Throw My Hands Up - a song with a fast beat, and good vocals to boot. It's once again got the urban soul sound, and it's as if she decided to leave all the better quality music off her original album. This track is a dedication to the soul sound of the 70's again. I really liked it, and it's too bad it was left off the original album.
18. Black As Rain - More blue-eyed soul and once again Pixie is showing off her strength through her lyrics, as the wonderful music showcases her talent as a singer as well. Why was this one left off? Wow, what a horrible omission.
19. Paper Planes - The soul keeps on coming, and the mellow vibe she gives off here channels - well, no-one! She is totally herself here, and she sounds the most comfortable on this song in a lite soul song. The only comparison I can give is One Republic's "Apologize," sort-of. It has that same kind of wonderful smouldering feel to it.
20. What Do You Take Me For? (Benji Boko Remix featuring Pusha T) - this remix by DJ Benji Boko is okay, but if they were going for some kind of gritter version of the original, well, it missed the mark for me. Granted, the youth of England will listen to it, but I won't, and for me it turns the ending of this part of the album a little sour.
So, in the end, I'm going to have to give it four stars out of five.
The album overall has a wonderful retro soul sound in a lot of places (especially if you get the Deluxe Version), but the album by itself is what a lot of female British artists are throwing out there right now - it's a curious mix of lyrics spit over cold electronic beats one moment, and love songs that are kinda cheesy and make the teeth ache a bit.
She is earnest in showcasing the vocals and the music, and in parts it's fresh and fun, but in other spots in just lands with a thud and makes you push away your fish and chips and think "what was that?" If I had a teen who listened to this particular blend of music, I'd get it for them because this is exactly what they are listening to, and I know Pixie will get a few more hits out of it, but I hope it's for the right songs - especially the ones she decided to leave off the original album.
As a second effort, it's a good album - not a great album, but we'll see how she fares in the future and learns, as we all do, from simply having fun, being young, and sometimes making questionable choices.
(Thanks for reading and please don't forget to leave a comment - or a vote - if you liked it or not!)