Corinne Bailey Rae | Corinne Bailey Rae (EMI)

So rare, then, is the young woman who can break from the pack, leaving an impression beyond an initial listen.


You can’t swing a piano bench these days without hitting the next up-and-coming twentysomething chanteuse; from Holly Brook to Katie Melua to Rachael Yamagata, the age of youthful singer/songwriters is in full, VH-1–hyped bloom. While it’s a pleasant palate cleanser and a welcome change of pace from mewling emo and thudding, brainless sludge-rock, there’s an inherent danger in this explosion of female talent: the law of diminishing returns. Unfortunately, many, if not all, of these spry performers begin to sound alike after awhile—if you’ve heard one lilting chorus, you’ve heard ’em all.

So rare, then, is the young woman who can break from the pack, leaving an impression beyond an initial listen. British import Corinne Bailey Rae, whose music glows with the spirit of vintage soul and R&B, seems to be a worthy challenger on her U.K. smash debut disc, but beyond a single here and there, doesn’t linger long after the final notes fade.

Corinne Bailey Rae is, however, an album tailor-made for summertime relaxation. Fresh, breezy, and utterly mellow, her mellifluous vocals run through tracks like “Put Your Records On,” “Like a Star,” and “Choux Pastry Heart,” skipping across the surface of such disparate influences as R&B fountainhead Marvin Gaye and the girl-power neo-soul of Jill Scott. Sharp-eared listeners could probably pinpoint a half-dozen more influences floating to the surface; call Rae a vocalist for the age of the iPod, sounding like everyone but herself.

It sounds like I’m tearing her record apart, but in truth, it’s slicker and far more digestible that much of what passes for R&B these days (Rihanna, I’m lookin’ at you). Rae’s amiable competence marks her as a talent worth keeping tabs on, but the strength of Corinne Bailey Rae is fleeting, a triumph of mood over tangible substance.

 


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