Strip Me is the third studio album from British pop singing sensation Natasha Bedingfield and the Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter has decided to release Strip Me exclusively in Canada and the United States to follow-up on 2008’s Pocketful of Sunshine which was also exclusively released in those two countries.
Strip Me sees Natasha Bedingfield enlist the help of stellar producers and songwriters such as Ryan Tedder (One Republic, Beyonce), Andreas Kleerup (Robyn, Cyndi Lauper), John Shanks (Take That, Kelly Clarkson) and long-time collaborator Steve Kipner (Cheryl Cole, The Script) to create the quintessential uplifting pop album to crack the US market but does it translate into a good enough album?
Read on for a track-by-track review…
The album’s opening song, ‘Little Too Much’ is an up-tempo guitar driven pop/rock song with a simple arrangement and catchy sing-along bridge and hook. The lyrics are at their simple best as well and you can just envision this one being a concert favourite. A good opener to the rest of the album.
‘All I Need’ is a much faster electro-heavy rock song that I really don’t care for. It sounds loud without ever going anywhere and not only do you never really notice Kevin Rudolf on this song until the final third of the song but you realise Kevin Rudolf is only featured by way of sampled vocals. This is basically a faster version and huge rip-off of Kevin Rudolf’s ‘2009’ smash hit ‘let it rock’ but it is sure to do well as an ‘Arena Pleaser’.
‘Strip Me’, the album’s title track is a welcome departure from ‘All I Need’ and a slight departure from the up-tempo tracks that began the album. This is slowed down by only a tad bit into a mid-tempo ‘anthemy’ pop song driven by heavy drum patterns. Laced with an uplifting and empowering messages – the lyrics speak of the uniqueness of Ms. Bedingfield in a sea of a million others and how “you ain’t taking that” from her. I can only wonder how a stripped-down acoustic version of this song would sound; much better, I reckon.
Onto one of my instant favourites of the album, the Ryan Tedder-produced ‘Neon Lights’ – this is Natasha Bedingfield in her very element. A catchy pop song with a very infectious chorus to match Natasha’s clever and witty lyrics upon which her rich raspy vocals really stand out.
Natasha Bedingfield – “Neon Lights”:
‘Weightless’ on the other hand is a bouncy up-tempo drum-heavy anthem but you can’t help but feel like you must have heard this already on this album. It’s another friendly and uplifting pop song about staying true to who you are which will not be everyone’s cuppa tea.
I actually like ‘Can’t Fall Down’ A LOT even though it shows signs of the same eternal positivity message that was served in the previous five songs on the album, but as Natasha sings “hope is irresistible”, you cannot help but be captured by her message, if only for a moment. This is a well-crafted guitar/drums-driven uplifting number with ample song-writing and production from the same minds behind Natasha’s biggest hit till date ‘Unwritten’ – Steve Kipner, Walter Wilkins and Andrew Frampton.
The formulaic slow-tempo pop/rock infusion laced with a crescendo of a hook that’s introduced as the first half of the album draws to a close continues gloriously on ‘Try’ and is very reminiscent of a Kelly Clarkson smash hit (pick any one). This song (only slightly) moves away from the overriding positive nature of the album and speaks about ‘love’ and trying to tell someone that they’re the only one. Natasha Bedingfield is in her vocal element on ‘Try’ as she belts out those hooks with great gusto and enthusiasm.
‘Touch’ is an electro-tinged Euro-dance number specifically for the night clubs and for a second there on the first verse, you wonder if you’re actually listening to Kesha. It isn’t until the chorus that Natasha Bedingfield reveals herself and even though ‘Touch’ might fit better on a Kesha album than on Strip Me, you’re almost grateful for the distraction from the overriding theme of the album when this comes on.
I literally have no words for the next song on the album and it stems from my desire not to keep repeating myself on this review, ‘Run Run Run’ is another safe and cordial song in the same vein as the entire album thus far and the synth-heavy Andreas Kleerup-produced ‘Break Thru’ is more of the same really which is a disappointment from the Swedish producer, who has previously provided innovative music for the likes of Robyn and Cyndi Lauper.
At the 10th track and 36 odd minutes of this seemingly short 13-track album, it already feels a tad bit too long and a very drawn-out affair. Without coming off as a cynical old man but how much ‘eternal sunshine positivity’ music can Ms. Bedingfield dole out before you feel the need to hit the stop button or in more drastic cases, destroy this CD?
The next two songs, ‘No Mozart’ and ‘Recover’ are both piano-driven; the former is a R&B/pop infused sexual innuendo-laden love song (or is that just me?) in which Natasha Bedingfield sings to her ‘boyfriend’ about how “it” is like “playing the piano” and how “your fingers know just where to go” as long as he “play it from the heart”, while the latter is a particularly slow song with another inspirational message about revival for you to ponder on. Sonically, both songs serve their purpose without being spectacular which can be said about the entire album – safe and formulaic without really pushing the envelope or raising the bar.
The album’s closing track is an enjoyable stripped down rendition of ‘Weightless’ labelled as a ‘less is more’ version and it goes down a better treat than its original. On the deluxe extended bonus edition of this album, other tracks such as ‘Strip Me’, ‘All I Need’ and ‘Can’t Fall Down’ are given this ‘less is more’ treatment to amazing effects and I would have liked for these stripped down versions to replace their original counterparts on the regular album.
Natasha Bedingfield – “Weightless” (Less Is More version):
All in all, Strip Me is probably the most optimistic record you’ve heard in a long while – the overriding themes across the board of this 13-track LP are ‘Empowerment’, ‘Inspiration’, ‘Life Affirmation’ and ‘Positivity’ (you cannot miss them) and there is certainly nothing wrong with that as some of you will appreciate this very positive record. If this is the musical space that Natasha Bedingfield is in at the moment (she co-wrote the entire album), long may it continue – but without innovative, imaginative variation in conveying these messages through her music, it stands the risk of coming across as boring and long-winded.
Her vocals are still as amazing as ever, those quirky and witty lyrics are abundant and the album boasts some very polished production but as I’ve mentioned before, these songs never really go anywhere BUT Natasha’s fans will enjoy this even if some of us mere mortals might have to exit this positivity-fest well before the 48-minute duration.
Granted it is more tolerable or enjoyable even, after the first few listens (you will be singing along to ‘Strip Me’ and ‘Weightless’ in no time, I promise) but this album is quite far from exceptional and not even the bevy of amazing producers and songwriters that worked on this album could make it more than what it is.
Strip Me is out now via Epic.