The girl is almost bad

JAZZ Shola Ama Jazz Cafe, London
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The Independent Culture
We all know the power of video. The drooling depiction of Sharleen Spiteri as an androgynous naif in the "Say What You Want" clip revived her career as fast as Shola Ama's was made by her masterful video. Still on MTV super rotation after months at the upper reaches of pop charts across Europe, the video for "You Might Need Somebody" has contributed heavily to Ama's success.

With her dewy caramel pout, razor cheekbones, eyes to out-doe Winona Ryder and four-poster bed poses as relaxed as her hair, it is a video that prompted certain members of the Wu-Tang Clan to remark: "That bitch is bad," and, indeed, Shola Ama is bad, just not in the congratulatory hip-hop sense of the word.

Admittedly the Jazz Cafe is a tough venue, an aircraft hangar filled with dubious-looking mobile-phone men accompanied by stiletto-heeled girls who think Posh Spice really is. Shola wasn't helped by the over-excited Svengali who took to the stage to warm the crowd up. "My girl ain't coming on until you're up for it," he screamed at us. So that by the time she did appear we felt mildly humiliated.

Looking like a juicy transvestite, Miss Ama eventually tottered down the stairs to a somewhat muted reception (apart from the aforementioned Svengali who danced and jigged so vigorously that I could barely see his star).

Shola, who was discovered singing on a tube-train platform, is a fine vocalist, the hit (a Randy Crawford cover) is perfectly bearable in a Toni Braxton-Mariah Carey way, but after two numbers the wilfully showy warbling became grating as did her Supremes-style dance moves: when she says the word "tight" her fist clenches; when she says "stop" she flexes it in front of her face; when she says "one" a solitary digit is waggled at us. Shola is like a Just Seventeen model. There's nothing especially wrong with her but there's nothing fabulous either. You can't help wondering, "Why her and not her backing singers? They're pretty, they can sing, what has she got that they haven't?" The answer is obvious: great video lighting.