When Esthero is missing in action, and Nelly Furtado is doing a Spanish album (which I sadly cannot understand), it seems we have a stellar fallback. Anjulie is an artist on Starbucks' Hear Music label who has gotten significant attention since the release of her debut single, "Boom" (which had reached the top of the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play Chart). Not only is "Boom" featured in the new show Eastwick, but Anjulie's music is featured in the opening of the new film remake of Fame.
Not Safe For Mixes
When it comes to dance music, a lot of stuff finds itself being thrown into the genre. Whether a dance-like beat is thrown on the track, or a new artist gets themselves remixed, music that we wouldn't normally label "dance" gets the label anyway. I feel this applies to Anjulie, a Canadian singer-songwriter whose world, jazz, blues, and pop-influenced music includes everything but dance. And the kitchen sink. Anjulie's voice is light and clear, but not especially powerful. Through the album it most closely imitates Nelly Furtado. It is intimate and adorable and suits the various styles that can be found on her debut. Her voice does not, however, translate well to overproduced dance remixes. That's what happened anyway, on both "Boom" and "Love Songs." "Boom" has the swagger of a Bond theme, something we've seen before (Bitter:Sweet "Dirty Laundry," Lal Meri "Bad Things") but perhaps not this chintzy. It's a cute novelty track, but for the type of mixes that were issued using Anjulie's voice, she got lost in production.
"Love Songs" is a more memorable pop track, the laidback bossa nova arrangement (a feel we see earlier in the album on "Columbia") both endearing and effective. And yet again, Anjulie's vocals should not have been taken and placed in a heavy production enviroment like a remix. The track is meant to be quaint and cozy, not something to flail and throw your body around to. Remixes for Anjulie are a bad idea, despite the attention it might gain her. They give a bad impression of what she has to offer. As a dance music journalist, I know this seems against my job, however I feel it is my job to offer a proper critique of the material presented.
Why It Works
The album presents a lot of ideas. A few tracks feature a soft, seductive smooth R&B groove ("Rain," "Day Will Come Soon") which works well for her voice and allow her to sing a little more confidently. This style is among the more accessible on Anjulie's album. She also showcases a lot of pop, whether Jem-styled ("Same Damn Thing," "I Want The World To Know"), or darker trip-hop-esque ("Addicted2Me"). "Fatal Attraction" fuses both sides of the pop spectrum into a pensive and dark-but-hopeful yearning. Her vocals are vulnerable and longing, and while the cut is catchy and accessible, it requires more than just casual listening. Anjulie breaks out a smooth jazz track with "Some Dumb Girl," which positively secretes sexuality. "The Heat" channels Anjulie's world influences, sinuously titillating with a sexy beat. "Crazy That Way" is Anjulie's only ballad and her most emotional and powerful track. The swirling orchestral arrangement is present but doesn't overwhelm her tender voice that strains for understanding and acceptance for her love-based idiosyncracies. This is a track I could see with a remix, if a track of hers had to have one, as long as the production wasn't too heavy.
Anjulie's self-titled album is the real deal for an artist album that successfully explores multiple genres and musical themes without feeling tacky or forced. Each track feels genuine, save perhaps for "Boom." "The Heat" and "Crazy That Way" are stellar. I hope with more releases, Anjulie will not be a fallback and will be a destination of her own. She is well on her way.
Released August 2009 on Hear Music.
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