Sidestep the slush and there's plenty to shout about on Mumba's debut album...
Somebody’s gotta tell Samantha Mumba that she’s actually Irish, not American – and so should cease drawling “bay-beh” at once. Not that the teen popstress would listen – she’s too busy having hit singles, with the insistent ‘Gotta Tell You’ and her latest, the surreally slinky, David Bowie-sampling ‘Body II Body’. Her debut album opens buoyantly with these two numbers. Alongside the similarly fresh-faced Jamelia, Samantha represents a new female hope for UK R&B, and this work is tastefully packaged and sweetly delivered.
Unfortunately, ‘Gotta Tell You’ relaxes into a trawl through slushy balladry, making its 15 tracks (many co-penned by the vocalist) seem overlong. ‘Isn’t It Strange’ sounds like an out-take from a musical, there’s mawkish poetry (“Let me take you to a milky way/We’ll ride the stars ’til the night becomes the day”) and treacle-textured laments on ‘Never Meant To Be’. Such conventional smoochiness might establish her appeal as a mainstream artist, but Samantha’s voice is naturally smooth rather than belting, and she’s best when getting “funky to funky”.
She rocks on the brilliantly upbeat ‘Always Come Back To Your Love’, emphasises a transatlantic appeal with Teddy Riley’s remix of her first single, and concludes in finger-clickin’ style with Stevie Wonder’s composition ‘Signed Sealed Delivered’. In these moments, Samantha Mumba condenses All Saints’ sparkiest qualities into one person – plus she can dance, and her clothes haven’t fallen off in a crap film yet. There’s plenty of syrup here, but some fine rhythms too – enough to shout about, bay-beh.