Sometime before Pixie Lott was the new Amy Winehouse, Gabriella Cilmi was the old new Amy Winehouse. Not that you’d guess from Cilmi’s sexpot space cadet re-invention in her latest video, On A Mission. And frankly, we’re not complaining. Turns out the lessons learned from Cilmi’s dull MOR debut (it was called Lessons To Be Learned, we just made a possibly too subtle pun, enjoy!) were that, come second album time, she’s discovered she has a stonking pair of pins that we never saw thanks to all that sitting-on-a-stool nonsense, she’s learnt the arts of a basic, if silly, dance routine and most importantly, she’s developed an inclination towards pop.
Sonically, Ten treads a similar path to Rachel Stevens’ much-lamented but never-forgotten Come & Get It – except this time, Cilmi has the vocal chops to sell the goods with more gusto than a drive-through employee asking if you’d like fries with that. Although nothing matches the brilliant Barbarella bolshiness of lead single, On A Mission, the rest of Ten is a silky, slinky, synth-laden electro take on mainstream pop that all washes down very nicely.
Last time, Xenomania produced the whole album; this time, it’s just the one song, Hearts Don’t Lie, and with it’s authentic 70s disco groove, irresistible ‘my heart keeps ticking’ motif and an almost Bee Gee worthy falsetto from Gabriella, we can almost imagine questionable-attired folk doing the hustle to this with disco-balls shimmering merrily in the background of Studio 54. Believe it or not, that’s intended to be a compliment.
Elsewhere, Robots is a breathy dreamy electro rush that wonders ‘what if kisses were made from ones and zeros’ (ah, the romance of binary code), Boys is classic Dallas Austin cool with a chorus that seems to grow from nowhere, What If You Knew is a bouncy uptempo that film producers are probably fighting over to provide the ‘girl realises she’s in love with best friend’ moment in countless romantic comedies and Love Me Cos You Want To is a sensuous sparkly surefire smash. Even when Cilmi finds herself slipping into old Winehouse-flavoured habits (Superman, Let Me Know), they’re actually surprisingly palatable. And those missing The Voice are directed to a strangely addictive ballad called Glue, so overblown and full of pomp, it must have come from an atrocious 80s flick. Somehow, it’s gorgeous.
A little generic perhaps but I’m enjoying myself far too much to look this sonic stun-gun-toting gift horse in the mouth. Whether Cilmi will still be trilling from the electro songbook come album three, when La Roux is just a quiff-shaped memory, remains to be seen. All the more reason to lap up the plastic-fantastic pleasures of Ten whilst they last then.
Article also available at Teentoday.