Bright, bubbly Natasha Bedingfield grabbed the U.S. by the ears and became the single woman’s best friend with a slew of tracks off her 2004 album Unwritten. Songs such as “These Words,” “Single” and “Unwritten” were heard on radios, in teen, ’tween (and guilty adult) television shows such as MTV’s “The Hills,” and at nearly every high school dance across America.
Bedingfield takes a very different approach with her sophomore U.S. release, 2007’s Pocketful Of Sunshine, an album that’s both deeper and richer in sound and words. If Unwritten was the anthem for single American women, Pocketful Of Sunshine is the anthem for those looking to settle down.
The album kicks off with “Put Your Arms Around Me,” setting the tone for urban pop that skews older than the teen/’tween set. For Bedingfield fans who miss the “Unwritten” days, there’s “Say It Again,” a track that’s probably the most pop on this album and the most like Bedingfield’s previous releases, only with slightly less sugar.
The two standouts of the album are “Pocketful of Sunshine,” my favorite track that features a slight electro beat to it and “Soulmate,” a soul-searching ballad in which Bedingfield questions the very validity of soul mates.
Bedingfield channels Lauryn Hill (a la The Fugees days) with “Happy,” a reggae-pop song that’s easy on the ears and provides a mellow vibe. In a duet with R&B/reggae singer Sean Kingston called “Love Like This,” Bedingfield harkens back to The Jackson 5 era with a '70s sound that, although a departure, is both pleasant and nostalgic.
Another good (if slightly copy-cat track), “Angel,” sounds like a complete rip off of OneRepublic’s “Apologize” (luckily that’s a song a really like). In the same pleasant but familiar vein is “Freckles,” which is very catchy and reminiscent of Corrine Bailey Rae.
In the take-it-or-leave-it category, there are a trio of tracks. “Who Knows” is a so-so stab at hip-hop, “Backyard” is a bland nostalgia piece, and “Pirate Bones” tries to deliver a message about fame but falls a bit short as the song’s words are strong but the music and vocals are lacking in power.
The two tracks that I could do without completely are "Piece of Your Heart," which is far too urban and doesn’t work with the rest of the album, and the closing track, “Not Givin’ Up,” which is too club/dance sounding and doesn’t fit with the rest of the album’s laid-back sound.
Apparently Bedingfield’s career is doing fine, despite the shift from “I’m single, hear me roar” to “Looking for love,” as four of her tracks are in the Top 100 songs overall at iTunes (“Love Like This”, “Pocketful of Sunshine”, “Soulmate”, and 2004's hit “Unwritten”).
Who knows what Bedingfield incarnation we’ll see next? In the meantime, there are enough decent songs–as well as a few real winners–on Pocketful Of Sunshine to make Bedingfield’s future seem bright.