Unwritten, the debut album by British pop singer-songwriter Natasha Bedingfield, is undoubtedly the work of a promising talent. It features a clutch of outstanding songs, and, like most first efforts, its fair share of lesser filler. Bedingfield's memorable voice is the feature of her music that lingers most in the mind.
Near Perfect 21st Century Pop Song
Unwritten kicks off with "These Words," a near perfect 21st century pop song that has deservedly been a hit around the world. Natasha Bedingfield's appealing voice, with just a slight rasp, glides languidly through tones setting her apart from the bulk of current pop singers. Words tumble appealingly through the song over a light hip hop beat and set a style for Bedingfield's work that is echoed throughout the album. Musical backing for Natasha Bedingfield's words is provided by a range of established British songwriters, most frequently Andrew Frampton, writer of tunes for Kylie Minogue, S Club 7, and Steps. His brand of pop froth is perfect for "These Words."
The Writer's Words
Natasha Bedingfield returns to the subject of writing and words on the title song "Unwritten." The choral line "Staring at the blank page before you - Open up the dirty window - Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find" could function as a rally cry at a writer's convention. However, by the time the gospel choir kicks in toward the end "Unwritten" rises beyond the world of writers to be a rousing general statement about developing a positive self image. When Bedingfield's words resonate they can be powerful.
Natasha Bedingfield's first British hit, "Single," is here and remains an upbeat celebration of the right to enjoy being single despite the opinions of others. "Size Matters (Big Up the Love)," a new track for the American version of Unwritten, is a pleasing light rhythmic romp. In another highlight "I Bruise Easily" is just the cautionary ballad a listener would expect from the title.
Cliches and Lifeless Rhymes
Unfortunately, Natasha Bedingfield's words aren't always memorable. "If You're Gonna" is filled with cliched and weak statements exemplified by the central line "Life is music play it louder." Bedingfield descends into the world of pop psychology on "We're All Mad" featuring a chorus of "We're all mad in our own way." When the words don't work, and when they don't work it is usually because the sentiments seem little more sincere than the average greeting card, it tends to pull the entire song down since the focus of Natasha Bedingfield's music is squarely on her voice and what she has to say.
Following in the footsteps of her brother Daniel, Natasha Bedingfield rocked the British pop charts last year, becoming only the 3rd woman to debut at the top of the album chart with her first release. The Atlantic crossing is often a difficult one for pop singers with major success in the U.K. Just ask Robbie Williams or Kylie Minogue. Fortunately, for Natasha Bedingfield, her first single "These Words" is catching on in the U.S. and appears poised to enter the pop top 10. While pulled down at times by several weaker songs, her album Unwritten does have the depth to generate additional hit singles. Many of the songs roll out like the confessional diary of an independent, positive young woman, and that makes Natasha Bedingfield's voice one worth hearing.