Album Reviews

Natasha Bedingfield – Unwritten

(BMG) UK release date: 6 September 2004

Anything you can do, I can do better, as the old saying goes. For Natasha Bedingfield, that statement is no small thing – her older brother Daniel is, as you know, wildly popular – even outside the UK – whilst remaining far more credible than his British pop peers. Unwritten, however, is a startlingly accomplished debut outing, letting the whole world know that Daniel is by no means the only talented Bedingfield out there.

Having heard Single before knowing its creator, I immediately assumed an American origin. I admit that I was more than a little surprised to discover the full story; the track’s stocky hip-hop approach stands head and shoulders above Girls Aloud, Amy Studt or any other female pop vixens you’d care to throw at me. Natasha instead finds her closest allies in the likes of Kelis, albeit with a more eclectic and exciting collection of songs.

Unwritten starts at full pace and rarely slows down. Current single and UK number 1 These Words kicks things off with its virally-infectious chorus and (relatively) clever wordplay. Single follows closely, paving the way for the slightly less-memorable but still enjoyable Pink-a-like I’m A Bomb. With non of Pink’s irritating inflection, it’s all good.

Long-time Robbie collaborator and pop songwriter extraordinaire Guy Chambers sits proudly on the creative credits, and Ms. Bedingfield, following in brother’s footsteps, claims co-writer status on each and every track. It’s the kind of simple credibility that has been sorely missed in British pop for as long as I care to remember, and, as such, Natasha scores bonus points for having the guts to put her neck on the line.

In a purely musical sense, title track Unwritten tops an admirable opening quartet and confirms the suspicion that the lass has an uncanny knack for the hooky chorus. Softly-picked acoustic guitar makes its obligatory appearance, fuelling favourable comparisons with that other genre-hopping lady of pop, Nelly Furtado. Natasha turns her incredibly powerful-yet-versatile voice from broody (I Bruise Easily) to believably aggrieved (on the surprisingly authentic stab at electro-punk, If You’re Gonna…) without the merest hint of complacency or phoneyness, and is certainly reminiscent of her professional and determined sibling.

The Chambers effect reaches full swing with Silent Movie, which sounds perhaps too close to Robbie for comfort, whilst Frogs & Princes is vintage Artful Dodger, minus the “Re-re-wind”, plus the “Baby don’t be one of the traffic / Had too many nights with the wrong guys coming up redlights”. She’s certainly a girl who knows what she wants, and even finds the time to throw a rap in our direction. Drop Me In The Middle (featuring Bizarre of D12) is the cherry on the proverbial cake, exhibiting the polished urban sound Natasha is quickly making her own, whereas Wild Horses, as you may be able to guess from the title, is a “What is life all about?” ballad that could go toe-to-toe with an If You’re Not The One any day of the week.

So there you have it – Unwritten is another brick in the wall of believable pop, and a British brick at that. Being both musically note-worthy and lyrically substantial (“You can lead a heart to love / But you can’t make it fall”), there’s no shame in adding this to your collection.

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Natasha Bedingfield – Unwritten