If Kelly Clarkson and Jordin Sparks have taught us anything, it's that no singer should be automatically denigrated just because they happened to win a television singing competition. And if Amy Winehouse, Duffy, Adele, and seemingly every other young female singer out of the U.K. at the moment have taught us anything (besides being a walking advertisement for the horrors of drug addiction, in the first case), it's that Dusty Springfield was no fluke, and that white girls from Europe can sing soul just as well as anyone. But unfortunately, on both counts, Stefanie Heinzmann is the exception that proves the rule. The 2007 winner of the Swiss version of Pop Idol, Heinzmann is an attractive teenager with a pleasant enough voice, but on her debut album, she's thrown into the deep end of a bunch of overpowering and extremely busy funk and soul arrangements (think Mark Ronson, only not nearly as effortlessly cool) and she flails for her life throughout. The problem is that Heinzmann's sweet, fluty tone and unnervingly precise diction are completely at odds with songs like "My Man Is a Mean Man" and the title track, which make her sound like Doris Day fronting the Dap-Kings. When she cops the "more, more, more" hook from LaBelle's "Lady Marmalade" in the middle of "I Bet She Doesn't Feel It," she's shamed by the comparison. (The genuinely painful version of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" that's a bonus track on some editions of the album would get her kicked off any week of American Idol, possibly including the auditions.) Encouragingly, however, there are signs of how her career can be saved: poppier, more electronic tunes like "Can't Get You Out of My System" and the chipper "Revolution" suggest that Stefanie Heinzmann would thrive as a straight pop singer along the lines of Natasha Bedingfield or even Corinne Bailey Rae. But this debut is overall something of a botch. On the other hand, Kelly Clarkson's debut album wasn't much good either, and look what happened next. ~ Stewart Mason, Rovi
Track samples provided courtesy of iTunes
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