Anne-Marie’s always been a down-to-earth kind of popstar. Offering a relatable sense of normality amid the glossy, sometimes unapproachable world of mass pop, her songs feel more like friendly beer garden conversations with your mates, as opposed to algorithm-chasing anthems. Co-written with a set of collaborators including Ed Sheeran ‘2002’ – released in 2018 – was a summery burst of youthful nostalgia while ‘Birthday’ was driven by carefree celebration two years later: “I’ma do what I like, I’ma eat what I like, I’ma kiss who I like,” she sang over bubbling synths.
It’s a shame, then, that her debut album ‘Speak Your Mind’ spent too much time playing it safe, rather than showing off the same charismatic personality we’ve seen since. Most infamously, when she appeared on The Great Celebrity Bake-Off and freely admitted she didn’t know what a cheese scone was.
Its follow-up ‘Therapy’ doesn’t make the same mistake. It takes less than a minute for opener ‘x2’ to switch from soulful and sweet to down-right menacing as the revenge banger sees Anne-Marie promising “a nice bit of old skool juicy payback”. It’s hard to imagine anyone else making the same pledge to an ex.
That same big personality is all over the album and she never tries to shrink to fit in. As Anne-Marie sings on the driving ‘Who I Am’, “you can love me or hate me, nothing’s going to change me.” She’s just as brash on ‘Beautiful’, exploring her own insecurities over swaying percussion. It’s a unifying moment of posi-pop as Anne-Marie encourages people to embrace who they see in the mirror. Likewise ‘Tell Your Girlfriend’ and ‘Better Not Together’ switch moments of heartbreak into powerful statements of self-confidence. It’s telling that there’s not a single ballad on the whole record.
There are a handful of brilliant collaborations though. ‘Our Song’ is the best thing Niall Horan has done since 1D, while the fist-pumping dance track ‘Unloveable’ sees her reunite with her old touring buddies Rudimental. And ‘Kiss My (Uh Oh)’ is a swaggering team-up with Little Mix that reworks Lumidee’s noughties classic ‘Never Leave You (Uh Oooh, Uh Oooh)’. It’s a flawless combination.
And musically too, ‘Therapy’ is infinitely more confident. It doesn’t over-stretch to push pop music forward, but it’s not far from the cutting edge, either. With songs taking influence from trance, indie and electronic music, every track on the album sounds so different that – at first listen – you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d tuned in to Spotify’s The Pop List instead. From many artists, this approach might feel slightly scattershot. Here, it never feels nameless, and Anne-Marie’s bold personality is finally given a chance to shine on a no-nonsense album that’s overflowing with chart-busting tunes and real world attitude.
Release date: July 23
Release label: Major Tom’s/ Asylum