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Music Review: Amy Serrata – Amy Serrata

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Soul singer Amy Serrata defies easy description—she draws from jazz, hip-hop, and soul, and her voice encompasses elements of Nelly Furtado, Jill Scott, and Erykah Badu with just a touch of Imogen Heap's quirkiness. On her debut self-titled album, she worked with Willie Norwood (father of R&B singer Brandy) to create an often eccentric mix of soul-tinged music with female empowerment-themed lyrics.

According to her website, Serrata began her singing career by performing in gospel choirs; not surprisingly, then, her lyrics echo the genre's subjects of self-validation and optimism. “Yes to Life” best summarizes the motif of Serrata's lyrics: “I choose/To freely/Be me,” she asserts. “I choose/To live a life/Transformed.” Another track, “Soul Food,” takes the word “soul” and explores its various meanings. She salutes soul music, but also sings of her spirit: “What you are/Has the power/To feed your soul.” While these optimistic themes are commendable, they dominate every track on the album, making the listener yearn for a simple good-time song or other change in tone.

Amy SerrataAlthough well-intentioned, some of Serrata's lyrics tend toward preachiness and venture into clichéd territory. On “Skin,” she sings “Skin the media's obsessed/Skin can’t we just give it all a rest?” The '40s-style arrangement shows her capability for creativity, but the lyrics simply do not make the entire track distinctive. “Love Another” suffers from the same problem, with her lyrics stating “You can love yourself/If you can be yourself,” and to “Love yourself/Love them all.” Again, these are admirable sentiments, but could have been expressed more originally.

The best track off Amy Serrata is its first single, “Rooted,” featuring a laid-back, old-school vibe that provides the perfect summer soundtrack. Serrata's voice glides over the bass-heavy beat with confidence, her words nodding to her obvious musical influences as well as her self-empowerment: “I’m coming back to my roots/Seein' so much proof/That what I’m made of,” she sings. “Teach Me” also contains a strong tempo that will keep feet tapping. Hip-hop and soul aren't her only interests, however; her most obvious homage to jazz is “Monday Mornin',” with a strong bass line bopping along to Serrata's airy voice. Badu fans may like “Hello World,” with Serrata's Billie Holiday-like vocals riding over a driving beat. She even delves into a slightly country sound with “My Baby My Child,”showing her diverse interests.

Serrata's vocals have a distinctive quality, and her musical tastes are eclectic, as shown in the quirkiness of her delivery and many of the songs' arrangements. “It all comes so naturally/Music is my fate,” she sings in “Feel for Me,” and her debut shows that promise. It would be interesting to see her explore other lyrical themes in future releases, relying less on self-help and preachy themes and more on her unique and multidimensional qualities.

For more information on Amy Serrata, visit her official website and MySpace Music page. Listen to the first single “Rooted."

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About Kit O'Toole