Thursday, March 31, 2011

REVIEW: Natalia Kills - Perfectionist

One of my most anticipated albums of the year has been Natalia Kills' debut album, Perfectionist. Natalia broke onto the scene last year with stylized video teasers and a couple free singles to KILL for (see what I did there?). I remember hearing Zombie and Activate My Heart (how is this not on the album?) and simply loving the pop noir sound she was going for. Between those songs, leaks like Wonderland, Free, and Break Ya Hard, and the official first single Mirrors...I was convinced that Natalia Kills was to be one of the brightest future pop stars. However, I do have a couple of disclaimers regarding Miss Kills before I begin this review (feel free to skip to the actual review if you don't want to hear my rambling).

The main problem that other people (not me) and the media will bring up if Natalia Kills ever begins to blow up is the same problem that has plagued Christina, Britney, the eccentric girl in the drama department, and the 5 yr old girl down the street who just put on a hat: GAGA. GaGa has become so saturated in music and public image at this point, that people are beginning to forget what came before her. Now I love GaGa for having this big of an effect on pop culture...but it is frustrating to me that people never stop with the comparisons. And comparing is the nice term for it. Where did the days go that I could walk around in a meat dress without being called a GaGa wannabe? I kid...but seriously! GaGa does so much and is so overexposed that everything can look like a copy of something she did. And Natalia certainly is doing a lot that can be seen as GaGa-esque: Singing style. Dark imagery. Chanting random words in the middle eight of the song. Songs about fashion. Not to mention that Natalia is getting her start with Interscope's imprint to help new artists, Cherrytree Records.

However, I am going to choose to ignore all of this because even if you are leaning towards agreeing with the doesn't take away Natalia's considerable singing talent and taste for hot pop music. And it is her debut after all...with a little success, she might find herself with a STUNNING sophomore album. Remember when people called Adele a lesser Winehouse when she released her debut? Now look at her! So...with that GaGa elephant out of the room, time for the review!!

As I said, most of the album has leaked or been released prior to this release so many of the songs are familiar. But they are no less stunning for it, and hearing them in a cohesive album like Perfectionist only make them that much more thrilling.

The album kicks off with a spliced, spoken word intro describing a perfectionist. I am not really here for intros so moving on...the intro leads into one of the best Kills tracks, Wonderland. A great pop song with strong vocals littered with fairy tale references. Natalia decries the idea of a fairytale romance, stating "I don't believe in fairytales, but I believe in you and me, take me to wonderland." She doesn't need a Prince Charming to come save her...her fantasy is a relationship set in reality.

The next track, Free, is actually one of the weaker choices for the album. I had heard this leak a little while back and assumed it would never make it. The subject matter is a little cookie cutter for pop music right now. "I'm free/I just spent all my money/But I rocked that like it don't cost a thin." A bit vapid for someone like Natalia who mostly slinks through her music with sex and dark imagery. Not one of the better tracks.

Thankfully, the following song, Break You Hard, is fantastic! Over a hard beat, Natalia declares "This is not a love song/Hunny if you want one better turn it off", and she lays into the song detailing that her man better take her love while he can, because afterwards she will be breaking his heart. The track has a great flow to it, and a really catchy chorus, and is one of the strongest offerings on the album.

The next 3 tracks are arguably the focal point of the album. Zombie is a slinky, sexy auto-tuned affair detailing the distant man she is in love with. It begs to be played in a dark club with bodies bumping together...definitely one of the sexiest songs delivered. Also, this is a great example of why auto-tune is not the devil. When it is used for effect not as a handicap (ahem), it can render great results. Love Is A Suicide is a single-worthy track that furthers the message of Zombie's distant lover theme. It details the hurt and devotion that love can create at the same time "You can run, you can hide/But sooner or later/It’s gonna cut like a knife/Sooner or later/Nowhere to go, I’m already inside/You know no one’ll love ya like I love ya." It is well-crafted and perfectly executed and remains one of the shining examples of what Natalia Kills is capable of. Finally, to round out that one-two punch is Mirrors. Driving beat, sex and s&m imagery, and Natalia describing a night of sex so steamy that the "mirrors are gonna fog tonight."

The second half of the album takes it down a little bit. Coming off the very club worthy Mirrors, Not In Love is a melancholy, humming song giving in to Mr. Right Now but acknowledging that it won't be enough because the man is not Mr. Right. It is a pretty song, and has her dark, sexy edge to it. She isn't saying she isn't enjoying the moment...but is aware that without being in love that it will never be enough.

Acid Annie rips into some a more rock sound right away following, and to me this is the low point of the album for me. Yes, the house-trashing makes me think of Carrie Underwood/Kelly Clarkson/Trina and that is always a good thing...but it comes off as more of an Avril Lavigne throw away track. And for the record, almost any of Avril's songs should have been thrown away anyway. I will probably be dropping this trying-too-hard-to-be-inspirational flop from my tracklisting.

Superficial is a fun, but yes very superficial song. Not a high point but has a good flow to it and it has already wormed its way into my brain. I much prefer the slower, following track Broke. It is a vulnerable, regretful ode to her past love (perhaps the Zombie from earlier?). This is a great track that showcases Natalia's formidable vocals and is a much better low-tempo song than the follow-up Heaven. Heaven is a trite, slightly corny dedication to a family member who has passed away. It actually has some great Postal Service-type production. But it doesn't connect in the way I thought it would when I first heard the subject matter.

Nothing Lasts Forever takes aim at the clubs with more auto-tune and a rap interlude about hooking up with a stranger in the club. That is always something I can get down with! Not the most inspired moment on the album, and probably not great to put such a song near the end of the album, but I approve and can feel it growing on me. And finally the album ends with a slightly throwaway low tempo called If I Was God. The sentiment is a bit dramatic, and I probably would have picked a song like Broke to end the album on a slower, but high, note.

Overall, the album is one of the more interesting and enjoyable listens I have heard this year. A few filler tracks could be trimmed out, but most importantly I got a solid taste of the many different things that Natalia Kills can offer to the current pop landscape. Yes, GaGa might do dark, clubby pop a little bigger...but Natalia has a very nice toned down, yet always sexy, way about making music that will definitely keep me interested and excited.

4/5 Wigs Snatched

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