Abel Tesfaye's dark, twisted album is at odds with the glossy pop world he's been thrust into
You Me & Us
...Just as Tiffany was never heard to mention she fancied going to Bowlie, so [B]Martine[/B] never once pretends that there's always been an Alanis element to her music....
The big man may have had a point, but it hardly atones for all the shocking music made in the past decade by Italia Conti School brats whose acting wasn't sufficiently good enough to sustain a career so had to diversify and discover A Voice. Martine McCutcheon, however, may just be the exception that proves the rule. Consistently the best thing about EastEnders in recent years - all things being relative, mind - no-one could credibly denigrate her abilities as an actress. Yet the fact that she patently does possess A Voice and even has the wherewithal to do something decent with it can only come as a shock.
'You Me & Us' is drenched in the usual emotional troths one would expect from a young woman whose favourite singers are Barbra Streisand and Luther Vandross. In the space of the first two songs alone, all human life totters between total rapture ('Perfect Moment') and absolute devastation ('Falling Apart'). Love is a thing of satin sheets and candlelight and staring out of windows on rainy days. There is even a song called 'Rainy Days', the lone handbag-compatible inclusion amidst a welter of ballads, and even it frugs with a regretful rather than euphoric air.
This is, then, an immensely reassuring album. Just as Tiffany was never heard to mention she fancied going to Bowlie, so Martine never once pretends that there's always been an Alanis element to her music. She co-writes four songs, and each follows the template to the last detail ("Does it scare you and unnerve you/That I make you feel so good?"). Honesty: this is her ultimate vindication, as well as a voice sufficiently true to breathe some life into the clichis. There's even the occasional moment of hymnal purity that all the greatest pop evokes. In 'I've Got You', producer Tony Moran has even written her a decent, sunny-side-up personal anthem.
Of course, this record will sell primarily because Martine was and will forever be Tiff. And for sure, Tiffany's wronged woman rep is played for all it's worth, to the extent that the album closes with a belt through 'Maybe This Time', Sally Bowles' maudlin signature tune from Cabaret. But unlike so many of her talent school peers' success, it won't reek of wholesale connivance. She's a good singer, but perhaps Martine McCutcheon is a better actress than anyone realises.
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