Little Secrets is available at:
24th October, 2015
PERHAPS it is the interminable slew of adverts on at the moment…
but I am finding my love of female singer-songwriters starting to wane. I am being unfair, I guess: There are some wonderful female artists emerging right now. What chills the blood are those adverts- from John Lewis to God-knows-who- that have the reedy-voiced artists (usually murdering someone else’s song) who could be the same person- the voice is THAT similar. I am not sure where they (advertisers) find them- if there is some sort of website- but my heart sinks every single time. I mention this because we are not seeing female artists represented heavily across radio- an area that should be making strides. It seems the girls of music are heard more often on T.V. than they are the airwaves. I listen to Absolute Radio every day and- among the mainstream artists played- there is that tendency to feature the boys. Perhaps Heart and Kiss are more equal- although they focus on the same artists time again- but what of the unsigned/new artists? Local radio does its best but we need something national- that is more credible/listenable than local radio- that features more new artists (women especially). My charming rant- or annoying aside- stems from the quality that is available out there. I have heard- over the last few weeks- some truly exceptional female songwriters emerge: I may not have encountered them were it not for my position (as a reviewer) and social media. Here is a quandary I might never extricate myself from- discovering the best artists more naturally- but that is one for the future. Whether I can figure out a way to make it so- a bespoke music website that puts EVERY new musician in one place- time will tell. For now, and with my featured artist in sight, it is great discovering a musician that fires straight out of the block. Before I come to her, I wanted to talk about powerhouse singers and putting performance into music. I find there are lots of musicians- both male and female- that resist the urge to let their voices be heard. Whether they prefer a softer, more subtle approach to music, it is hard to say. You all know the type of singer: The sensitive, heart-on-the-sleeve type that tries to soothe the birds from the trees. It is rewarding discovering artists that do this- and can do it in an original way- but the body yearns for an act that can blow you away with power. Just this morning- whilst investigating Absolute Radio’s countdown of the ‘Top 100 Albums of All-Time’- I remembered what an album Lungs was. Released back in 2009, it introduced Florence and the Machine to the world. Compared with Kate Bush, Regina Spektor and Fiona Apple: Florence’s Welch’s beguiling beauty was surpassed by her intense performances and extraordinary musicianship. Those sky-scarping vocals scored songs that left their mark and ensured listeners were hooked. The machine gun-fire songs- Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) among them- were backed by bellicose percussion; atmospheric electronics and a woman wrestling with her own soul. Welch showed she could be seductive and restrained- in addition to being a howling goddess- and mixed emotions and vocal styles perfectly. The same ambition was applied to the songwriting which brimmed with imagination, daring and memorability. Natalie Gray has an essence of Florence Welch which is exciting me. Aside from the flame hair and explosive voice- that can bring soothe and sweet into that ecstatic electricity- you have an artist with a flair that is rare these days. I have had my fill of wearied songwriters all strumming listlessly. I desire that kick to the heart and bucket of water to the face.
Before I continue on, let me introduce Natalie Gray to you:
“Natalie Gray is a 23 year old London based singer / songwriter launching her solo career this year (2015).
Growing up listening to acts as varied as Whitney Houston to Guns & Roses has helped to define her strong and distinctive vocal style that has been likened to Katy Perry, Hayley Williams (Paramore) and Kelly Clarkson.
After focusing heavily on dance and performance over the last few years, Natalie has recently recorded her debut EP, ‘Welcome to the Show’ and released her first single Little Secrets which does exactly what it says on the tin.
Natalie has featured on Debonair’s new single ‘Thanks to You’ promoted to a wealth of underground stations throughout the UK through Beat 1.
If you get a chance to speak with Natalie, perhaps you should ask her about a recent UK tour with The Hoff. Just a hint”.
With her vocals compared to Katy Perry and Kelly Clarkson; I think Florence Welch would be a more relevant name- someone who had more widespread appeal and ability. Whatever name comes to mind; you cannot deny the personality and passion that emanates from that singular voice. Given Gray’s performance history, it is not shocking she can belt out a tune with conviction and control. Maybe that is what’s missing from music: Artists that need lessons in theatrics and performance. I feel the music school-produced acts are being moulded, consciously, into pre-existing names. There is that sense of conveyor belt production: Stamp out acts that all seem chart-worthy and ‘safe’. Were something extra-curricular available- theatre course or something similar- it would give musicians that needed gravitas and sense of show. Natalie Gray is new to my ears, yet her debut single was released five months ago. The fact it is still gaining feedback and attention shows what an impact she has made. Endlessly touring and performing- as an actor and musician- Gray is one of the most explosive propositions I have heard for quite a while. I am not sure what she is planning for this year- if an E.P. or album is planned- but fitting it in will be a challenging. Given the fact she’s touring- with nary an ending in site- will studio time be a possibility? Let’s hope so because that voice- whether covering a well-known song or something original- is attracting thousands of followers. I have high hopes for Gray and am curious to see how far she can go. I know she is being compared to some heavyweight (U.S.) chart stars, but find it bellies her true abilities. Having grown up with the grit of Gun N’ Roses and soul of Whitney Houston: Those names are more fitting for a talent who is a very rare commodity. Whatever form a future record will take, I can see ‘80s/’90s Rock elements mix with Houston-esque soulfulness; that staggering breath of Florence Welch- topped off with something uniquely special. I have been suffering a bit of writer’s block- maybe stifled by homogenised charts and a lack of influence- but Gray is an artist that has kicked my mind up a gear. I am always seeking musicians that going beyond what is expected and cause some real excitement. Little Secrets is a track that provides a glimpse into a strong young woman with bags of promise. I cannot believe she has not been signed up- whether that has happened and I am remiss- but Gray deserves record label patronage. Someone to help guide that variegated talent and foster the burning ambition: Filter it into albums and tours, one would hope. I am sure our heroine has her own plans, but right now, ensure you familiarise yourself with a very special musician.
It is rather exciting, thinking of Natalie Gray. Ordinarily, when I come to review an act, I weight their new material against their older stuff: A sort of weighted mean assessment of their sound. With regards the London-based singer; there is more of a challenge. Having investigated her cover versions- across YouTube– you get the sense of a singer finding out who she is. In spite of unflinching confidence and assurance, there is that self-discovery occurring. Gray can sing about scrappiness and fight for survival. She is a master of assuming the mantle of a lusty, sense-inspiring vixen: A natural actress that is effortless and sensational in whatever role she plays. Each cover version shows a different side to the young heroine. Whilst you get some consistency in each- the stunning voice and impeccable delivery- no two ever sound the same. The range of artists covered is also quite wide-ranging and surprising. Little Secrets is a song that blends sauciness and sweat with something quite revealing and open. Within the track you get a woman who knows what she wants- there is little ambiguity in her come-ons and lusts- but someone who can control her man. That sort of unabashed revelation- a young woman exploring her body and soul- is a commodity that has always done well. Whether the mainstream U.S. artists- from Lady Gaga to Rhianna- to our homegrown acts: Natalie Gray puts her own stamp on things. What will be interesting is what a forthcoming E.P. will contain. A lot of pre-existing cover versions deserve a place (on the E.P.). Little Secrets seems like a natural opener; Gray will have picked up new inspiration and ideas. Whether compelled by touring- performing in Last Night a D.J. Saved My Life– and the tales of the road: There will be new songs formulating in her mind. How these come together and coalesce will be the real challenge. Gray is just as authoritative playing a hot-bloodied woman as she is the soul-revealing girl. Whatever the outcome- when the new record does emerge- we are going to see one of our brightest new artists show just what she is capable of. Possessed of a voice that can blow the clouds from the skies; I would love to see that utilised in new ways and across a variety of tracks. As a writer, it seems Gray has the potential to rival the likes of Florence Welch, Kate Bush and Regina Spektor: Fearless musicians who stun across composition, vocal and lyrics.
I have been excited about Little Secrets for a few days now. From the opening moments, you are left in no two minds: Here is a song that means serious business. The opening guitars signal intent and arrive with panache and direction. It is not long before our heroine arrives to the microphone. When she does, her words resonate and explode with passion. I can see how her voice has been compared with Kelly Clarkson- there is a familiar, U.S.-based tone to the voice- and her Pop-Rock sound. “The taste of your lips” is the first line and a window into the ideals and temptations lurking within Little Secrets. Our heroine is directing her words to a man- maybe a lover or former beau- that is either closed-off or quite emotionally distant. Maybe not as brazen and revealing as he should be- keeping that flame dim inside his chest- there is that desire to let it out and embrace something exciting and raw. The opening line- the romance and sexuality- sit alongside oblique intrigue and something quite interesting. There is clearly some history at work- a song I find based in fact rather than fiction- and that need to revert to a former state. The guy is perhaps too secretive and not letting (our heroine) in. By the second verse, we find the duo sat on the backseat of a London taxi. Gray is someone who constantly burns for that particular touch: She wants her name screamed: She definitely wants to spend the night with the hero. That lack of inhibition and discretion shows an artist who shows little fear and holding back. Perhaps those U.S. comparisons become more relevant with each passing verse. Our homegrown stars- by comparison, at least- are a bit reserved and typically-British. Gray is not someone who wants to keep things bottled-in and play it coy. The emphatic and libidnous delivered is supported by a composition that keeps driving and pressing. Never becoming too spotlight-hogging for a moment: It sits in the background and provides perfect support for the vocal. The ‘little secrets’ title seems like a coy euphemism, in effect. Maybe not purely intended: There is that desire to reveal sexual secrets rather than heartfelt ones.
The man in the frame has lied and been dishonest in the past: Perhaps playing away and double-crossing our heroine. Those oversites are being papered-over and there is a chance for transformation and a new relationship. Whatever has compelled this forgiving nature is quite fascinating. It is that confidence and single-minded charm that will appeal to most listeners. A lot of songwriters can be quite prim and buttoned-up: Gray’s prowling kitten is an animal that will be very hard to tame. To be fair, there is a lot of sensitivity and maturity that runs throughout Little Secrets. Whilst the end result might be close to the bedroom; there is a woman who wants (her man) to change and grow. The past might have produced scars and arguments but the future is now and things can change for sure. Backing herself on vocals- a sweet and augmentative chorus- you get both sides of the artist: That sweetness and light; the harder-hitting Rock singer. At every stage- whether teasing secrets or casting thoughts to the bedroom- there is never a lack of focus and direction. The song is tight, expertly produced and mixed to ensure every verse and vocal ties together beautifully. By the final stages- and with that infectious chorus lodged inside the forebrain- you are left with a smile, for sure.
I have tried to decipher the lyrics and reflect on their true meaning. I am not sure whether our heroine got the boy- or at least coaxed secrets from him- but that unambiguous intention reigns in every moment. Propelled by a rocky and gritty composition- tied together with softer Pop melody- Little Secrets marks an artist with huge promise. A singular track that leaves images in the mind; you cannot deny the passion and talent of Natalie Gray. In future releases, it would be great to see that voice stretched the very limits. I have mentioned Florence Welch before- and shall temper it- but feel there is that same scope, both musically and vocally. Little Secrets is a song that could well fit into the mainstream: It will appeal to fans of U.S. idols such as Kelly Clarkson and Katy Perry. Gray has that crossover appeal and could easily reach a huge audience. I know there are many sides to her; so it will be fascinating to see how she exploits that. Heading into the studio; I would love to hear a creation that mixes Little Secrets-esque numbers with something even more epic and dramatic. Perhaps aimed more at a ‘younger audience’- the teen-early-20s demographic- Gray could push that even further. Little Secrets is a confident and stunning song that sparks and explodes with aplomb. It has a radio-friendly vibe yet possesses a sauciness that marks it as a late-night club song. Natalie Gray could well blossom into an artist who is among our most treasured stars: Little Secrets is the first step on the road to glory.
We all have our own tastes and predicaments when it comes to music. Whether you favour subtlety and sweetness over power and intensity; that is your choice. I like to hear a balance between those two extremes: A polemic does not need to be a harrowing thing to achieve. There are a lot of musicians that aim for that sort of reach- going from the cooing bird to the roaring dragon- but lack discipline and command. I opened by highlighting our very Florence Welch. As we speak, she is seducing the crowds in South America. After that, back to Europe- Spain and Italy are on the agenda- with no time for relaxing and reflecting. It shows what love and support there is for her. One of our most consistent and prominent female songwriters: I can see Florence and the Machine ruling the charts for years to come. She (Welch) has smashed that blend of honesty and fantasy that creates some truly awe-inspiring music. The woman behind the Machine is one of the most down-to-Earth and human personalities I have come across. She is also one of the most eye-catching, fascinating and loveable. Ticking all the boxes one could desire- and creating her own spreadsheet of frigging boxes- I have yearned for a new musician that has a bit of Welch in her bones. Natalie Gray is someone who evokes the best qualities of Florence Welch- the scarlet hair is a link that is hard to ignore- but she goes deeper and has her own style. I bring up the comparison out of flattery; rather than diminishment. If you can (in all honestly) evoke spirits of wonderful songwriters- whilst staying true to your own vision- then you have cracked it. Little Secrets is a glimpse into what Natalie Gray can really achieve. I know how busy she finds herself, and that is a good thing. That touring- she has just performed alongside The Hoff himself- will go into recording, which I hear, is a distinct future prospect. Gray is heading into the studio to work with producers: The nature of these recordings is being kept secret for now. Part of me hopes an E.P. is forthcoming: I cannot wait to see what the young heroine can come up with. I feel there needs to be an explosion in the mainstream. As I type- and have been playing all morning- is Absolute Radio’s playlist of the best 100 albums ever. It is soundtracking this review and bringing some fantastic music to mind. One thing baffles me, mind: Some rather dubious albums are (higher up the list) than the classics. Ed Sheeran’s X is, by all accounts, a rather patchy affair. In the eyes of Absolute Radio’s voters, it is a finer work than Carole King’s Tapestry– and Paul Simon’s Graceland, for that matter. This kind of mind-boggling insanity is the result of few modern idols coupled with unadventurous record collections.
One suspects- a lot of the voters that put X so high up the list- are of a certain age (the teens and those in their early-20s) whose album collections do not go beyond 2006. I do worry about the public when you witness such flagrant naivety and poor tastes. Oh well. It is my crux and one I shall have to bare for now. I swore I would step away from London for a few weeks and go on a music detox. My wagon-jumping ambitions have lasted all of a few days- a brief musical trip to San Francisco aside- and find myself falling from said wagon with a bang. It is perhaps inevitable the capital will come back to mind: It is my favourite city and seems incapable of disappointment (when it comes to music). It is only a matter of time before Natalie Gray is hitting the big stages and a name synonymous with all. I see so many here-one-moment-gone-the-next artists arrive and then dissipate instantly. It is alarming there is such a casual disposability in today’s music. So few artists endure and keep on making music. Maybe there are factors behind this- financial strains and the stresses of demand- but I think it is more to do with consumer tastes. Once upon a time, there was that desire for easily-digestible music that never pushes any boundaries.
I feel there are higher expectations now that are not being met. Take acts like Rhianna and Adele. Two singers lauded for their consistency and talent: Their latest albums have been rather mediocre affairs. It is not acceptable to rest on your laurels- like Adele has- or not make significant leaps of evolution- Rhianna’s Anti promises to spark but rarely does. As the mainstream tries to sort itself out- some artists are fading whilst others are on the rise- it is the new musicians of the underground that are making the biggest statements. Inspired by their contemporaries- those in the same boat- and seeing gaps in the market: I am hearing a lot of potential stars emerge right now. Natalie Gray mixes commonplace/relatable- lyrics of love and heartache; vocals that contains touches of others- with original spirit, composition and delivery. The secret to terrific music is blending the bygone with brand-new: Putting enough of yourself into the mix; together with something universal and comforting. Whatever your musical tastes and preferences- in terms of genre and style- you will find much to love in Natalie Gray. On social media, the young singer has an infectious personality and has a connection with her fans. The multi-talented singer is a seasoned performer who can deliver songs like few others. The music itself- Little Secrets the most relevant example- shows an artist that has the desire to inspire others and state her claim for stardom. Someone able to cover songs and make them her own- a rare combination- you have a born talent that should be applauded. Studio sessions are booked and there is speculation and plans afoot. Just what the result will be, who knows. What is for sure- whatever results from these recordings- will signal Natalie Gray out as…
A great British talent we can all love.
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