Friday, 25 May 2012

Haley Reinhart - Listen Up! (Deluxe) --Review--

Haley Reinhart's debut album is a joy to listen to. Simple as that. Review over. (You wish!)

Listen Up! is very sexy, in a sultry, old glamour way. But unlike Lana Del Rey, whose persona is a Greta Garbo on pills, Haley is not pretending to star in a David Lynch film. She's effortlessly sensual and you can hear it all over the album.

Haley possesses a beautiful voice which has many shades and flavours. From a clear coo to throaty growl. She can belt, and she can whisper. And she sounds like no-one else. My dear mother, who loves music but unlike me doesn't spend much time thinking about it, can always 100% recognise Haley when I play her - which REALLY means something.

Because Haley is such a great vocalist and an amazing live singer, I was really worried that her voice would end up sounding less rich and much more processed on the album (as is the norm in pop these days) but I needn't have worried. While the production is slick, you can still tell Haley is an exceptional singer.

Not only that, she's also a good songwriter: all of the songs on Listen Up! were co-written by her (except for the first single Free), and well...the songs are better than good. Catchy, sexy, timeless, with a retro sheen.

Oh My! is a little sauce-pot, and even B.O.B.'s (not particularly inventive) guest rap surprisingly fits the tasteful raciness of the record very well. Free was love on first listen for me. Months later I still harbour deep feelings towards this song. I can even sing along! Yes, you can tell it was not written by the same songwriter as the rest of the album, but which talent show alum gets to have their debut single this good and reflective of their future sound? I think Haley, who had to choose her first single before she even got to start working on the album, chose very, very well.

Wasted Tears and Hit The Ground Runnin' have already been featured on my blog before when their acoustic versions emerged on YouTube. Their studio versions are even better. Original, conflicted but at the same time uplifting. Keep Coming Back is a song in a similar vein to those two, only gutsier, edgier and a bit harder.

Wonderland and Walking On Heaven have a 60's meets 90's vibe. The good sort of 90's vibe. Wonderland is in fact my favourite Haley-penned non-ballad on the album...a fact that surprises me somewhat. The song is so smooth and feel-good. That sort of vibe is SO not me!

Undone, a gorgeous ballad. I only felt its impact properly on about the third listen...but boy, it was quite an impact! I rarely listen to ballads, and I have to commend Haley for including just one on Listen Up! If Kelly Clarkson released this single today, it would be a sure hit. I hope Haley releases it at some point, if given the right airplay and promotion it could be a worldwide hit.

There are two songs I'm less enthusiastic about compared to the whole record: Liar and Now That You're Here. Though it's a personal preference only. Objectively I can't find anything wrong with them...

A few words on the bonus songs: Follow Me (I'm Right Behind You) has very cool verses, unfortunately its chorus never really goes anywhere. Spiderweb is more rock than any of the songs on the regular album...a solid bonus song material. What You Don't Know wouldn't have fit on the regular version of Listen Up! either, this time because it's very 70's disco. Let's Run Away is the best of the extra songs: it's very joyous and sweet, in a good way. A feel good song featuring an ukulele which would make a great track no. 11 on the regular album. An ideal closing track.

Haley Reinhart's debut album Listen Up! sounds every bit Haley-an. You can hear Dusty Springfield and 60's girl bands influences, yet the album ends up feeling timeless, and...modern. And hot.

A recommended listen for sunny summer days of 2012 and many years to come.

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