This ought to be great. Do you remember six years back when [a]Gabrielle[/a] took the charts by warbling storm with ‘Dreams’? Sure, her Eartha Kittish nasal twanginess and besequinned eyepatch covering the lazy left eye she’d had since birth made her the object of cheap and easy mimicry, but by God, the girl was exotic, mysterious (a troubled upbringing was hinted at), simple and yet captivating. Here was our very own black soul diva… a little British belter.
And in true divadom grand folly, she made some real stinky career decisions ripped off by petty criminal associates; a longterm relationship with n’erdowell Tony Antoniou, who left her the day she gave birth to their child and who, when charged with the murder of his stepfather (he decapitated him with 50 blows from a sword in a motorway layby), dragged Gabrielle’s name into the gruesome affair.
It seems no wonder, then, that the overriding themes explored on ‘Rise’ are male/female relationships, trust and inner confidence and being a star.
And they’re pleasant enough songs. Current single ‘Sunshine’ is by far the most poppishly accessible and chirps along rather quaintly, very much like ‘Dreams’ in fact. Others sound disappointingly uninspired and lazily derivative; such as the gauchely Wham!esque ‘Falling’ (in love, obviously enough), or the cosy but outmoded Motown take of ‘When A Woman’ (a girl wakes up early to get her man), very much like her other hit, ‘Give Me Just A Little Bit More Time’, in fact.
Gabrielle’s voice still has that superstar quality, her vulnerability and sincerity still makes her something special, but with young acts like Destiny’s Child, Lauryn Hill and TLC ringing the changes in perceptions of the black female in pop, you’ve got to think with this the diva is facing another tragedy…