Every year, the hipsters of the world find a mainstream artist, usually female, who they all simultaneously decide to love. It’s a tradition based on a deceptively simple principle: the songs by this artist of choice might not be that great or original, but damn, are they catchy. Last year’s queen of pop crossover was of course the first ever American Idol, Kelly Clarkson, whose “Since U Been Gone” could be heard pouring out of everyone’s car windows during the summer of 2005. Even people who claimed to never listen to the radio knew the lyrics to that song; and even if they didn’t, the melody was so catchy they could at least pretend to know them. But what does everyone’s favorite all-American girl have to do with Scottish newcomer K.T. Tunstall? Quite simply, while none of the tracks on Tunstall’s debut album Eye to the Telescope are as addicting as Clarkson’s tracks, she has what it takes to make pop music that sells and sticks out from the crowd. Whether she can fulfill this potential, however, remains to be seen.
Tunstall’s biggest asset is her voice. Her lyrics, while thankfully shying away from the angst which has proven the downfall of many a talented singer, still aren’t all that inspired; but in songs such as “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree,” she sells them. There’s no doubt – simply a raw hoarse fire that tells us this woman relishes every moment she’s singing. The only problem is, there is no middle ground for Tunstall; when the tough fire disappears from her voice, all that’s left is another Sarah McLachlan wannabe. It would be nice to hear some mainstream female singers who experiment with their vocals; I’m not asking for the vocal cacophany of Yoko Ono. I’m just asking for some risks.
Honestly, though, this is a very pleasant CD. And if I were perhaps twenty-five years older or ten years younger, I would really enjoy it. But, the music behind Tunstall’s vocals is so bland that nothing really grabs me. Aside from her voice, there’s no fire or passion or anything to make this vocalist stand out from the rest of the crowd. But if you have a mom or a little sister who wants to get into a new, inoffensive artist who will interest them and perhaps will be a gateway artist to more interesting musicans – or maybe just a Stylus-reading friend looking for a new guilty pleasure – then go out and buy them Eye to the Telescope. Trust me, they’ll thank you.
Reviewed by Megan Giddings
This review is also posted on The Modern Pea Pod.