Birdy - Birdy Album Review
As I sit here writing, that insufferable John Lewis Christmas advert plays in the background, instantly recognisable by the anodyne cover of Morrissey and Johnny Marr's 'Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want' that accompanies it. Sang in that self-pitying, almost mumbling vocal style that's fast becoming known as "Doing a Goulding", Slow Moving Millie's excruciating and soon-to-be massive selling version of The Smiths classic epitomises what seems to be the latest major label phenomenon; the credible cover.
In these times where The X Factor and its ilk can dominate weekend television viewing, not to mention ensure a rapid burst of download sales for any song featured on the show, there's also the stigma that comes with being attached to such a cultural monstrosity as Simon Cowell's ever expanding circus. One can imagine the type of conversations that ensued in several executive boardrooms of the music industry in recent years. "Who needs songwriters to pen new material when we can raid our own vaults?" Precisely.
Enter one Jasmine Van Den Bogaerde, aka Birdy. Now before anyone accuses me of being too harsh, yes she's still a schoolgirl that's barely six months beyond her fifteenth birthday and no, she cannot be held responsible for the cleverly manipulated marketing project that passes as her debut album. Let's not get too carried away with her stage school background and famous lineage - her great uncle being former BAFTA winning actor Dirk Bogarde. After all, there's no disputing she's a talented musician with a fairly distinctive vocal.
No, what's disheartening about this record is the cynical advertising behind its existence. That it serves a purpose in highlighting the latest female megastar in waiting. That ten of the eleven songs which make up 'Birdy' just happen to be carefully chosen cover versions of songs by credible artists rearranged as comfortably orchestrated piano ballads likely to appeal across a wide range of demographics. That many of the potential audience 'Birdy' is geared towards probably won't be aware of most of the original versions' existence.
By roping in a post-millennium who's who of esteemed producers (Rich Costey, Jim Abbiss and James Ford all contribute various parts) Birdy's management team and record label haven't just pushed the boat out, they've moved heaven and earth to try and sell their latest manufactured protÃ©gÃ© as anything but that. And yet when all's said and done, what is there to possibly gain from watered down versions of several landmark songs? Surely if The xx had intended 'Shelter' to be sung in such a languid manner they'd have recorded it this way themselves? Likewise the pedestrian take on Phoenix's '1901'. It's all good and well having a passable, if occasionally haunting voice but why would anyone choose to listen to this over the originals?
The one self-penned number here, 'Without A Word', doesn't exactly break the mould either but at least demonstrates that somewhere within those record label shackles is a potentially viable artist waiting to escape free. Sadly, by the time a pedestrian reading of The National's 'Terrible Love' brings this album to a close you're left rueing the previous forty-five minutes of valuable lost time that can never be replenished. And subsequently wondering just what was the point in releasing such an insipid middle-of-the-road collection of other people's songs apart from milking that overworked cash cow.
Of course we've been here before in recent years; anyone care to admit to owning a copy of Joss Stone's 'The Soul Sessions'? Sadly, the lessons learnt from her impending nosedive into obscurity seem to have been ignored.