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Katie Melua’s Call off the Search: No guts, no glory

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Katie Melua‘s Call off the Search is servicable. If you heard her singing while you and a date ate a romantic meal, you’d be perfectly satisfied. She has a good voice, a fine instinct for jazz infused pop vocals, and enough presence to be interesting. Interesting is necessary but not sufficient to carry the performance above “good” on the meter.

I could be acccused of damning her with faint praise, and it wouldn’t be too far off the mark. There’s very little that is wrong with this album and most of the pieces are right, but they never come together in a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. It looks like an airplane, but it never takes off.

My only serious complaint, other than ‘it should do more for me’, has to do with the song choices. Whoever chose these seems to have been thinking ‘I’ve found the perfect song for Katie’s voice’, without noticing that the song isn’t perfect for Katie. The two songs that trip the ‘what where they thinking’ breaker are The Closest Thing To Crazy and My Aphrodisiac Is You

The Closest Thing To Crazy suffers from bringing up her youth. “Feeling twenty two, acting seventeen” and “How can you treat me like a child?” are unfortunate lyrics for a nineteen year-old singer who is clearly not much more than a child. It’s not just a matter of paying dues, it’s a matter of being credible when you’re singing about life and changes. It jarred me out of the story, which is the wrong way to get my attention

My Aphrodisiac Is You also seems to be unsuited to a nineteen year old singer. It could work for an older singer, but I tend to think “doesn’t need chemical stimulants to be horny” is the standard case for teens. The biographical material sent with the album makes a great deal of her youth, but it’s not the unalloyed advantage that they seem to think it is.

Aside from that it’s a “good” album. It’s the kind of thing you’ll like if you like this kind of thing and I hear potential in her voice. It’s easy enough on the ears, but it doesn’t command attention. There’s no compelling factor musicially or lyrically that would make you annoyed at your tablemates at the bar for talking. That’s too bad.

Maybe the next one will be stronger. Maybe it won’t be such a safety play. I’d prefer that. This is good, but good isn’t good enough. If you’re looking for pop/jazz, try Buddhacrush. Tim’s vocals are raspier, but they fit the songs he writes.

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