While Anne-Marie goes for the formulaic and makes a fun album, Smith shows how the grown-ups do it.
The 20-year-old singer has a smooth, soulful voice and blends soul and trip-hop on her debut album in a way that’s both retro and modern. She reminds us of one of our guilty pleasures, Deniece Williams, the singer who emerged in the late 70s as one of the great soul voices — she has a four-octave soprano voice — but was always nicely low key. No Maria Carey showiness for her; tight but chilled soul backed up her voice. Smith has this old-school quality, with a modern trip-hop feel.
It’s all good. We like the more retro Teenage Fantasy, an old-school “stay away from that boy” song, and in fact much of the lyrics are about the pains of love.
The dreamy February 3rd is also good, with Smith doing her full Williams/Minnie Ripperton thing. The string-led The One is a slower tune to break it all up, as is the trippy Lifeboat. The more acoustic Goodbye is intimate. Closer Don’t Watch Me Cry is a massive ballad.
A good album: the kind of material Joss Stone would die for. For fans of all soul, from Deniece Williams to Lauryn Hill.