Friday 8th September 2006
9 months after being unjustly booted off 'The X-Factor', Maria Lawson releases her debut self-titled album. As X-Factor fans will remember, Lawson was popular for her versatility, incredible vocals and fiery stage presence. Her impressive reworking of the James Blunt mega-hit 'You're Beautiful' (included here as a bonus track) was one of the highlight's of the show. It is with some dismay that I have to say that Lawson should have recorded a better album than this.
It's not that the album is bad. In fact, on many levels it is a very pleasant and enjoyable listen. The problem lies with the record bosses opting to play safe. Lawson never truly gets to shine on the album and instead settles for bland, forgettable MOR tracks. Debut single 'Sleepwalking' opens the album and immediately disappoints. The song is cliche-ridden and could be anyone singing. There is no unique characteristic that tells you it's Lawson singing. Another problem with the album is the amount of songs that preach cliches ('Give It All You Got', 'Your Life', 'His World'). I expected brash catchy numbers and belting ballads. On 'His World' Lawson's vocals are overproduced and she ends up sounding like Britney Spears. She is better than this.
On the plus side 'Black Mona Lisa', 'Naked With You' and 'The Poet' (a cover of a Liberty X album track) hint at the real potential Lawson has. They are easily the best tracks on the album but she needs to have more songs like this if she wants to establish a long term career. As I write this, debut single 'Sleepwalking' has proven a commercial failure and the album has failed to enter the Top 40. This is very disappointing. Lawson had the most potential on 'The X-Factor' and I feel this album has done a disservice to her.
Lawson is not the only victim of a disappointing play-it-safe album. Fellow contestants Journey South, Andy Abraham and even winner Shayne Ward have done the same. All four albums lack the personality and versatility that the acts possess. They have all aimed for the Westlife audience and, with the exception of Lawson, succeeded.
Maria Lawson is an incredible talent and with the right songs could steal the R&B princess crown from Jamelia. Based on this debut, Jamelia can rest safe but I hope on the next album Lawson gets to show what she is capable of. She is more than a Gabrielle stand-in or a Javine reality reject. If MOR pop is your thing you'll probably love the album but if you're a fan of Lawson based on 'The X-Factor' you will probably be disappointed.