Album: Charlotte Church

Tissues and Issues, SONY BMG
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The Independent Culture

Church co-wrote most of the dozen tracks, doubtless drawing on her time spent growing up in public for lines like "Bad relationships and people that I thought were friends/ People judging me without knowing me". But she appears to have no personal investment in them at all, judging by her anonymous delivery - a shortcoming compounded by the gadfly approach to their musical settings. So while she obviously has technique to burn, there's no distinguishing features to set these songs, and her, apart from the glut of female singers whose careers are likewise driven primarily by ambition alone.

Most troubling of all, from Charlotte's point of view, is that the lack of compelling character here seems to reflect a corresponding lack of musical curiosity. She might make a big noise about being a "Crazy Chick" on the lead-off single, but she's nothing of the sort. Feisty Chick, maybe, but as far as crazy goes, there's no trace of even the mildest eccentricity on Tissues and Issues. In her passage from angelic classical phenomenon to workaday pop chick, she appears to have lost all interest in staking out a unique territory of her own - though to be fair, her classical career was hardly based on challenging adaptations either. Perhaps working in such a constrained form at such a young age has hobbled her imagination when it comes to the more volatile musical form of pop: maybe all she can do is copy what's been done before, and hope that her superior technique will score for her.

Hence the casting around for a style that fits, from the brittle funk-pop of "Crazy Chick" to the glutinous, string-swathed balladry of "Finding My Own Way", to the slight Latino flavour that haunts "Casualty of Love", to the buzzing synths of "Let's Be Alone".

And though you'd suppose her classical chops would serve her well, that's not necessarily the case. Charlotte no longer has the Voice of an Angel - there's an irritating nasal quality in her higher register, especially on "Casualty of Love"; and when she tries to do deep and husky, the results are positively unattractive. Pop, it turns out, is a much more complex and nuanced business than classical performers believe.

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