Monday 18 February 2013

Kimberley Walsh - Centre Stage

Go back and listen to Girls Aloud’s initial auditions for Popstars the Rivals.  Not great eh?  The girls may have formed the most successful talent show group in history with a string of excellent pop hits, but as solo artists their voices are pretty weak.

Now it’s the turn of Kimberley Walsh to forge a solo career, after frequently unsubtly hinting expressing her love for musical theatre.  Often, talent show hopefuls are told they’d be “perfect” for the West End stage when they fail at being a popstar.  Why?!  West End performers spend years training and perfecting their craft, only for a (very) minor celebrity to swoop in and steal the best roles.  The disillusioned Walsh is a prime example, what with her turn in the dire Shrek The Musical, which did nothing but reveal her limp vocal.

‘Centre Stage’ is essentially an extended audition for Walsh’s West End career – a career that, judging by this album, deserves to stay buried in the audition room.  A quick look down the track list is enough to send musical theatre aficionados dizzy with fear – songs like On My Own, Defying Gravity and Somewhere are notoriously exposing and tough to sing.  Is Walsh’s voice really up to scratch?


The song choices are obvious crowd pleasers, many of which centre on an infamous ‘big note’.  Take Idina Menzel’s richly belted performance of Defying Gravity from ‘Wicked’ – by comparison, Walsh’s voice is a wispy shadow where every note is a struggle.  Memory from ‘Cats’ is synonymous with Elaine Paige, a song of beautiful fragility.  In Walsh’s hands, it just sounds like a strangled cat.  Anyone who’s seen the recent film of ‘Les Miserables’ will be familiar with On My Own, here reduced to pop drivel.  And Walsh’s television performance of One Day I’ll Fly Away did enough, in one fell swoop, to ensure nobody buys this album.

A major problem is that musical theatre numbers are inherently theatrical.  On ‘Centre Stage’ many of the tracks have been reinterpreted as pop songs to accommodate Walsh’s limited capabilities.  There’s no drama, no feeling, just a straight vocal meandering around the melody.  Somewhere from ‘West Side Story’ is an incredibly tragic song, but on this album it’s re-imagined as a crooning jazz number that sees Walsh doing her best Sinatra impression.  Leonard Bernstein will be turning in his grave.  As Long As He Needs Me is similarly crucified jazzified, sung with little to no sense of phrasing whatsoever.  Falling Slowly is the newest song on the album, taken from the current Broadway smash ‘Once’.  Walsh is paired with Ronan Keating, together performing as a rather dull, emotionless duet.  Thankfully Walsh is joined by West End star Louise Dearman for I Still Believe from ‘Miss Saigon’, the most dramatically produced song and in the most appropriate key for Walsh’s voice.  Even so, she’s utterly out-sung by Dearman who showcases what a musical theatre voice should sound like.

Another issue is that of audience.  It’s unlikely that Girls Aloud fans will be interested in this little side project to the band, but equally fans of musicals have little reason to part with their cash when they can purchase the far superior cast recordings.  We’ve already had Susan Boyle ruining I Dreamed A Dream, we don’t need Walsh doing the same for other loved shows.  It’s no wonder ‘Centre Stage’ is currently plummeting down the charts.

It’s difficult to justify any redeeming features of ‘Centre Stage’ beyond the attractive cover art.  Far from bringing musical theatre to a new audience, Walsh has achieved the opposite with sickening interpretations of some beautiful songs.  Perhaps the minimal album sales can be put towards some acting lessons – God knows she needs them.


Gizzle's Choice:
* None.

Listen: If you must, 'Centre Stage' is available now.