Yet that’s pretty much what Fleur East’s debut has ended up being. Of course, it’s an understandable blueprint when East’s success is basically built on that cover. Debut single Sax features a similarly horn-heavy non-chorus, and both Gold Watch and Kitchen devolve into repeated middle-eights akin to “uptown funk you up”: the former riffing on “what’s the time Mr Wolf” and the latter bizarrely delivering an ode to Tina Turner (that’s somehow kind of genius). Once you finally get to the actual Uptown Funk at the end of the album, you’ll already be sick of it.
Then again, Ronson and Mars were clearly imitating the late 70s/early 80s funk of Michael Jackson and Prince; by following in their footsteps, East has essentially provided her own version of ‘Off The Wall’. And that’s no bad thing. ‘Love, Sax and Flashbacks’ is full to bursting with funk basslines, horn stabs and vocal ticks – “give it to me!” is basically the new “chamone!”. Of course, there’s a modern twist here, with East displaying her rapping skills (on Love Me or Leave Me Alone especially) as well as her husky vocals, and updating the production with some well-placed synths (particularly in the Chic-esque Over Getting Over). It’s practically impossible to listen to this album and not feel the urge to dance.
She’s at her best, though, when the funk is blended with glittering Whitney-esque pop. Breakfast is a fun and flirtatious nod to I Wanna Dance With Somebody that’s followed by the similarly inspired More and More. It’s hear that East relaxes a little more and proves her chops as a popstar. They’re also somewhat a continuation of the 80s pop style Little Mix brought back with Black Magic. In fact, just imagine what ‘Love, Sax and Flashbacks’ would sound like as a Little Mix album?
Instead, though, we have East. On X Factor she proved herself a consummate performer, but purely listening to the album reveals the weaknesses in her vocals as she strains for the higher notes. These are clearly songs to be seen performed and danced to, not merely heard. There’s also no room for emoting here, the sole ballad being a cover of Alicia Keys’ Girl on Fire that’s only available on the deluxe version (and is merely karaoke anyway). What’s left is a fun yet relentless album that after a handful of tracks is somewhat exhausting to listen to. Equally, it proves East’s future potential as a popstar. If this is her ‘Off The Wall’, I can’t wait to hear her ‘Thriller’.
* More and More
Listen: ‘Love, Sax and Flashbacks’ is available now.