Sunday 19 October 2014

Ella Henderson - Chapter One

After the huge success of Ghost, it's a dead cert that Ella Henderson is set to be the next long-term star from the show.  'Chapter One' is a solid, confident debut album (and a vast improvement on that from James Arthur who eventually beat her in the competition), but it's not quite pop perfection.

Ghost established the soulful, gospel sound that's become Henderson's trademark, but it's no surprise that, as the only song written by Ryan Tedder, it's far and away the album's highlight.  Henderson had a hand in writing each track, proving she's certainly a competent songwriter, but nothing quite lives up to that opening single.

Thankfully 'Chapter One' is a surprisingly varied affair.  Empire offers a soaring, militaristic feel; Glow takes her in a darker, electronic direction; Mirror Man is a sexy, stomping retro anthem; The First Time is one of many songs in which scorn is turned into a bright, catchy melody; and Rockets sees Henderson at her breeziest.  It's in these uptempo tracks that she's at her best, with a pop sound that blends retro chic with modern soul - even if it verges on Radio 2 territory at times.

As she proved on X Factor, though, Henderson was always queen of the ballads.  Yet it's here that the album stumbles.  Exposed piano lament Yours falls flat; Hard Work is a sugary twee 50s ballad; and All Again is essentially the winner's single she was denied.  Give Your Heart Away at least has some depth to its modern power ballad sound, just on the right side of cheesy.  That's not to mention the myriad of soundalike ballads included on the deluxe version.  All that emoting just becomes tiresome.

The comparisons to Adele are somewhat unavoidable, with both artists favouring a retro soul sound to carry their big vocals.  Whilst vocally strong (if a little grating), Henderson just doesn't have the same unique tone and her songwriting doesn't carry the same emotional weight.  There's a decent pop album here, though, full of easily likeable, catchy tunes.  And if the Adele comparison has one positive, it's that the inevitable 'Chapter Two' from Henderson will be a massive hit - and deservedly so.


Gizzle's Choice:
* Ghost
* Glow
* Mirror Man

Listen: 'Chapter One' is available now.