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Music Review

Jamelia: 'Superstar - The Hits'

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Jamelia: 'Superstar - The Hits'
Released on Monday, Sep 24 2007

And it was all going so well. Her sophomore album had gone double platinum; she'd scored three top five hits within the space of ten months; she'd even managed to nab the best single gong at the Q Awards (U2 must have had a quiet year). Fast-forward three years and Jamelia's only musical activity is a hastily-assembled singles collection plagued by the unmistakable whiff of Woolies' bargain bin: Superstar - The Hits features no new songs, no new photos and no liner essay praising its auteur's inestimable contribution to planet pop.

Considering the collection’s brevity – Superstar features just eleven songs – it's baffling that two low-charting singles ('I Do' and 'Boy Next Door') from Jamelia's 2000 debut Drama are omitted, while 'No More', which became just as much of a flop when it stalled at number 43 in March, is included. But Superstar does present a neat snapshot of British pop music throughout the noughties. Early singles 'Call Me' and 'Money', with their fractured rhythm tracks, cooing choruses and mock-operatic flourishes, are hopelessly indebted to the US R'n'B of the time, while 'See It In A Boy's Eyes', a slice of soul-pop so tender it’s tempting to smother it in mint sauce and gorge on it in front of Antiques Roadshow on a Sunday afternoon, ushered in a teeth-grinding new musical sub-genre: the Chris Martin urban crossover collaboration. And Jamelia wasn't afraid to take the odd risk: 'Thank You' relates a chilling tale of domestic abuse – "You hit, you spit, you split every bit of me" - over a backing track that melds elements of folk, electro and R'n'B.

Superstar also offers evidence that Jamelia became a more vital artist as her career progressed. The singles from Walk With Me, her under-performing third platter, are bolder, beefier and more insistent than those from 2003’s double-platinum Thank You. 'Something About You' apes the Breakaway-era Kelly Clarkson trick of marrying surging rock guitars to an incendiary pop chorus, while 'No More' builds a compelling gospel-soul workout around an instantly familiar sample from the Stranglers' 'Golden Brown'. And then there's 'Beware Of The Dog', on which Jamelia doesn’t so much jump on the electro bandwagon as leap into the engine room, chuck Richard X out of the driver's seat and steer the stolen locomotive towards dancefloor nirvana at 200mph. It barely grazed the top ten, but, then again, pop has always been a devilishly cruel mistress. It's a lesson that the very existence of Superstar - The Hits can't help but drive home.

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