The whizz bang debut from Ed Sheeran's mate Anne-Marie is a canny mix of edgy r `n' b and pop
With a headline sold-out gig at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre already under her belt, 27-year-old Essex singer Anne-Marie Nicholson returns to Ireland shortly to support Ed Sheeran on his nine-date Irish tour..
She's the former musical theatre brat (she once shared a stage aged 12 with Jesse J) and three-times world karate champion who has gone through something of a pop incubation period since her first dawning in 2013.
A confederate of Rudimental, Anne-Marie released huge hits with the likes of Clean Bandit and American DJ Marshmello so everything seems primed for a debut that mixes pop immediacy with edgy electronica on brash in your face songs that tackle the pressing millennial issues of the day.
Speak Your Mind certainly starts well with Cry, a delicious kiss-off to a cheating boyfriend in which she grinds out killer lyrics like "You'll never find another, Another piece of luxury like me, You're such a mother******, You couldn't even make, make, make my tea" over spacey hi-tech and hyperventilating production.
Humour and idiosyncratic storytelling dominate an album packed full of r `n’ b and dance and Anne-Marie’s Rihanna like patois certainly curls and darts around the haywire production values. Trigger is particular dazzling and when she slows it down on Then, it’s for an emotional electro ballad that reveals that she’s not all sass and attitude. Likewise with the funny and endearing body positive anthem Perfect, a rundown of how, sometimes at least, she’s really just a slob like everybody else.
The lyrics come in a flurry of put downs, brush offs and hilarious one-liners with an eye and ear for great pop hooks. The bold dubstep indebted Bad Girlfriend ("I’m laughing but I don’t think you’re funny, I stay because you give me all your money") approaches Lily Allen smarts and you’ll know 2002 is an Ed Sheeran co-write within the first two notes; it’s another insipid track about childhood memories with halting acoustic guitars that owes rather a lot to Castle on the Hill and sounds out of place here.
Allied with producers Steve Mac (Sheeran), Nana Rogues (Drake), TMS (Emelie Sande), Tom Meredith (One Direction) and, of course, Marshmello, it’s a debut brimming with sass and confidence that serves as a counterpoint to Dua Lipa’s more sultry pop approach.
However, Speak Your Mind is not as strikingly original as it thinks it is. It’s also overlong and lacks staying power. Still, if you’re heading to the Sheeran gigs, get there early.
Alan Corr @corralan