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Kiran Gupta talks about five of his favourite albums in 2021.
Music has always been one of my biggest passions. I wanted to write about some of my favourite albums in 2021, fully aware that they may be somewhat outside the typical taste of the Drew’s News reader. I hope that you enjoy the reviews and potentially even find something new to stream and appreciate during lockdown.
With a career spanning over 40 years, you know what to expect from Kylie Minogue. She has made her name off pumping dance and disco tracks with lyrics centred around love and happiness. And she has done it extraordinarily well. This album is no different; with a sound even stronger than her previous albums.
The answer is largely yes. The upbeat, head-voice laced disco bop, ‘Magic’ is a standout, clearly made for the clubs of Sydney and London. Minogue channels the vibes of 70s and 80s disco, with a number of tracks sounding as if they would be well-placed on a Nile Rodgers album.
But the album doesn’t feel dated either. Whilst staying within her well-established lane, Minogue experiments with new sounds as well, sprinkling elements of EDM throughout the album. The synth tinged ‘Dance Floor Darling’ would easily fit on an Ariana Grande album and Minogue is at her best with bouncy pop-disco songs like ‘Where Does the DJ Go’. Infectiously catchy, bubbly and full of life, this is where Minogue shines.
Minogue knows her audience and delivers a strong product, full of the kinds of songs that launched her into the spotlight. It’s clear that Australia’s pop queen intends to live on. If you love dance-pop or crazy funky party numbers, this is the album for you.
UN AIR DE FAMILLE (Sony)
Patrick Fiori is a French singer-songwriter who burst onto the scene in the smash French musical Notre Dame De Paris. His tone is gorgeous, at its best with soaring high notes. This album represents a very different style for Patrick Fiori. Gone are the days of power ballads and gut-wrenching love songs, now Fiori is singing sweet tunes about family and children. One song (‘Sur les épaules de mon père’) even features a duet with 14-year-old, Angelina Nava. It’s a different style of music but definitely worth a listen for music fans looking to widen their music tastes.
There are great moments on the album. ‘J’y Vais’ is a song clearly constructed for French radio, combining the powerful voices of Fiori and pop-opera fusion singer Florent Pagny. ‘Ma Solitude’ is also a notable stand-out, as Fiori sings about his loneliness as if it were a lover, being held ever close. The power of his top register shines through, reminding us of the talent that launched Fiori’s pop career. Whilst sometimes it feels as though Fiori is catering to too many different audiences, this does mean that the album is a fabulous listen for music fans of all ages and tastes – there’s something in there for everyone.
Les Miserables Company
LES MISERABLES: THE STAGED CONCERT (Warner Music)
Another year, another Les Mis concert album. With such an iconic musical, the question is always whether the new cast recording adds anything to previous versions. For this recording, the score has been re-orchestrated, providing a new level of richness and warmth in sound. The album also captures the heart and quality that makes Les Mis so special for so many. Carrie Hope Fletcher stuns with a powerful rendition of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’, full of biting grit and dramatic substance, her contribution being a shining light on a strong album. Shan Ako’s ‘On My Own’ is powerful, maintaining the original essence of the song whilst blending in modern melodic deviations. Rob Houchen’s portrayal of Marius is pleasant and Michael Ball (who played Marius for many years) clearly possesses the gruffness required for his new role of Javert.
However the star of the new production is Alfie Boe, who makes a terrific Jean Valjean. He delivers a professional and hearty performance whilst Matt Lucas and Katy Secombe are typically hilarious in their portrayal of the crass and catty Thernandiers. A great album for Les Mis fans at all levels!
SONGS FROM MY HEART (Universal)
From starring on the West End and acting in TV dramas for over a decade to holding a judging role on Britain’s Got Talent for over 14 years, Amanda Holden has had a staggering career. Incredibly, this is the first album she has ever released. Singing a collection of show-tunes and pop ballads, Holden produces a pleasant album, with hints of pizzazz and a dose of the spectacular.
Holden’s voice is well-suited to faster-paced songs. The opening track, ‘Not While I’m Around’ shows off her strong tone and clear diction and ‘As If We Never Said Goodbye’ has sufficient lightness to showcase the pleasant and polished qualities in her voice. Her duet with British actress Sheridan Smith, ‘I Know Him So Well’ is a highlight, with clear and crisp harmonies as well as raw power and emotion.
Holden also shows no fear in taking on the classics. ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’ shines brightly with plenty of strong emotional build-up in the song. ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ and ‘Over the Rainbow’ are similarly beautiful. This album is a real treat for musical theatre lovers and a great introduction into the standard musical theatre repertoire for new listeners and aspiring performers.
BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED DREAMS (Sony)
This wouldn’t be complete without me fawning over a Delta Goodrem album. I’m going to keep this brief given how obvious my sentiments will be, but I really do think this is one of her best albums yet and one of the most complete albums of the year.
It feels like a polished product, with slick writing and production. The reflective ballad “Dear Elton” is gut-wrenching in its calls to idol of Goodrem’s, Sir Elton John. Reflection is a theme throughout the album, with musings on celebrity (“Everyone’s Famous”), distance (“All of My Friends”) and health crises (“Paralysed”), this album feels like the complete package. No matter how polished it is, Goodrem still delivers with passion and raw emotion, allowing her to connect with audiences in a way that only she can. If you listen to this album, I encourage you to listen to it as a whole album, let it take you on a journey as Goodrem shows you through her world. It’s a great product when considered as a whole and well worth a listen for all Australian music fans.