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Music Review

Natasha Bedingfield: 'N.B.'

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Natasha Bedingfield: 'N.B.'
Released on Monday, Apr 30 2007

However did Natasha Bedingfield become a pop superstar? Sneaking through the door to chart success that her brother Daniel had bolted through – and was about to have slammed in his face second time around - she gave us one of the most irritating debut singles in history ('Single'), released a patchy debut album (Unwritten) and filled the airwaves with psychobabble-infected lyrics that grated as often as they charmed. Remember how she sang "hyperbole" to rhyme with "Super Bowl" on her number one hit 'These Words'? Our dentist thought he'd won the lottery. Nevertheless, the joyous, United Nations theme-in-waiting 'Unwritten' became a US smash and that debut LP sold an incredible six million copies. Not bad for a gal who started her career in a Christian rock band called The DNA Algorithm.

Clearly the stakes have been raised for N.B., Bedingfield's follow-up. Can the toothsome triller retain her US fanbase – earned by enduring the same trek around radio stations in Midwest America that Lily Allen has been whining about recently – without sacrificing the slight British oddness that is the bedrock of her appeal? The early signs are far from encouraging. N.B.'s credits are littered with the names of high-profile US songwriters - Mike Elizondo (Eminem, Pink), Nate Hills (Nelly Furtado), Patrick Leonard (Like A Prayer-era Madonna) – who are unlikely ever to have met a girl from Lewisham before. N.B. even features that hallmark of British pop albums designed to make it big in the States: a power ballad written by Diane 'I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing' Warren'. Why do the labels bother? This trick didn't work for Gary Barlow, the Sugababes or Natasha's brother and Warren hasn't penned a bona fide smash since LeAnn Rimes' 'Can’t Stop The Moonlight'. That was seven years ago now.

Fortunately, Bedingfield has managed to avoid the grating Americanisation that has hamstrung Joss Stone's recent output. Its A-list writing team notwithstanding, N.B. is, for the most part, filled with the same sprightly R&B-lite as her debut. Sadly, songs like 'Tricky Angel', 'No More What Ifs' and 'Not Givin' Up' – which features a jarring cameo from US rapper Eve – suffer from the same lack of memorable melodies that crippled Unwritten. This isn't to say that the album lacks potential singles. Only 'Say It Again', a co-write with Maroon 5's Adam Levine, manages to nail a chorus as unexpectedly euphoric as those of 'Unwritten' and 'These Words', but 'How Do You Do' locates the same interface between pop exuberance and hard-edged urban credibility as Nelly Furtado's recent singles and 'Who Knows' is an off-kilter pop gem. Its stealthily seductive chorus, complex harmonies and fuzz guitar solo knit brilliantly to make it N.B.'s undoubted highlight.

Ultimately the album plays out like an episode of Ally McBeal from the late nineties. Natasha's in like with you, not in love with you. Natasha wants to have your babies. She's looking for her soulmate. She still believes in love. And love, by the way, is like a flower. How much you enjoy NB will depend on whether you find Bedingfield’s relationship advice insightful and illuminating or as glib and clichéd as an Oscar acceptance speech. What do we think? Well, the six million souls who bought into Bedingfield first time around are unlikely to be disappointed.

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