With last year’s X Factor winner Matt Cardle drowning in a seemingly never-ending sea of his own unfortunate press statements, it falls to the release of Rebecca Ferguson’s album to make a genuine case for why the ITV show is a force for musical good. Cher Lloyd’s debut has already impressed, a surprise pop gem that perfectly captured her attitude. Can Rebecca prove that she too has the mettle to stick it out on her own two feet as well?
On the X Factor, it was clear that Rebecca was the talent; week after week she blew the audience away with inspired, powerful cover versions. And if there’s one overriding theme to Heaven, it’s that it stands as a genuine statement of that talent. Her vocals are flawless, the production of the tracks equally faultless, and infused with a timeless gloss of class. Heaven is by no means the year-defining 5-star record some would lead you to believe it is, but it is undeniably stately, regal – an album that manages to shake off the X Factor tag in its confidence and polished sheen.
In a year of vocally superior empowered female artists, Adele has trailed the banner, managing to break out from the samey cling that affects so many retro-pop records. Rebecca, it has to be said, doesn’t quite manage this – Heaven is a samey-sounding album, but her saving grace is that she does what she does here exceedingly well. Heaven treads a predictable path from track to track, but it treads it with unrivalled elegance.
Glitter & Gold struts with the same timely bounce as the Aloe Blacc anthem I Need A Dollar, while Mr Bright Eyes recalls the halcyon days of mid-century America and white picket-fenced houses. It is here that Rebecca’s vocals are at their heavenly best, and – looking to Adele – Shoulder To Shoulder is the album’s real Hometown Glory moment, full of a haunting procession of string laced piano chords.
The lasting impression of Heaven is of an album that “serious music” fans can stroke their beards to and go “oh, she’s rather good isn’t she”. Of course, it’s important to remember that underneath all the grandstanding of the album, there’s still a fun-loving Scouse girl – if there was ever an artist to bridge young and old in union and mutual appreciation of something, it’s Rebecca.
The album’s not without its groovy moments too, Run Free in particular rocking to a cool Stevie Wonder vibe. Then there’s Diamond To Stone, a bit of a “lurve” on the dance floor of a ’70s disco come close of the night moment. Fighting Suspicions is equally sensual, taking things further back in time to smoky ’30s jazz joints, and ultimately building to almost Bond-theme levels of scale.
It’s in Too Good To Lose that Heaven finds its pinnacle. The album’s most up-tempo number, it’s a Cee Lo Green-esque concoction smattered with a dash of drum machine and synths. Now, if the whole album was as good as this, then it really would be worthy of five stars. Still, Heaven is a tantalising glimpse at just how brilliantly amazing Rebecca can be when she wants to be.