Say what you will about the talent show, but it and its myriad of spin-offs seem to have changed the music industry for ever. Yet for every Will Young, Leona Lewis and Girls Aloud, there’s a Steve Brookstein, Leon Jackson and One True Voice languishing, bruised and battered by their taste of fame.
Laura Izibor first sprang to prominence when she won Irish radio station RTE 2FM’s Song Contest when she was just 15. Yet her debut album has had a remarkably long gestation period, being six years in the making. But in that time she’s supported Aretha Franklin and John Legend and had tracks featured in Gray’s Anatomy and Ghost Whisperer, so it seems a pretty safe bet that Izibor won’t be making her living on the club circuit anytime soon.
Indeed, from the very first note of Let The Truth Be Told, Izibor sounds like a proper pop star. In fact, the aforementioned Leona is probably the best comparison, as this is music aimed squarely at the American market – smooth, funky and fresh R’n’B with a surefire commercial pop touch, all delivered perfectly by Izibor’s flawless vocals.
Shine makes for an upbeat opener, all piano, brass and inspirational lyrics about quitting “the job you swore was temporary” until effortlessly sliding into a big chorus that would sound nicely at home on prime-time radio. Don’t Stay is even better, a showcase for her superbly strong voice, which never feels the need to lapse into unnecessary histrionics.
There’s a nice mix of styles throughout, from upbeat pop to impassioned ballads such as What Would You Do and some dramatic orchestration on the standout track Perfect World. The album closer Mmmm… even has a touch of gospel, making for an uplifting and inspirational end to the album.
The only trouble is that it’s all a bit too flawless and smooth. There’s no rough edges at all, which means that much of the album falls into the identikit soul package. From My Heart To Yours sounds so much like Lauryn Hill that it could well be an unofficial follow up to Doo Wop (That Thing).
Similarly, the big piano ballads, such as The Worst Is Over, sound very reminiscent of Alicia Keys – no bad thing of course, and there are certainly worse role models to look up to if you’re in the poppy R’n’B market. Yet it prevents Izibor from developing her own voice.
There’s no denying that Izibor knows how to belt out a song, and when it’s a number like Yes (I’ll Be Your Baby), she does it incredibly well. The whole album is shot through with so much confidence that you’re willing to overlook the fact that it doesn’t really have too much character of its own. The fact that Izibor writes all of her own material, and co-produced the album, demonstrates the fact that her own voice will develop soon enough, given time.
Besides, it seems churlish to snipe when the talent on display is so obvious. It’s been a long time in coming, but Let The Truth Be Told has the requisite ingredients to start something very big for Laura Izibor.