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Album Review: Anastacia 'Our Songs'
The big-voiced diva takes a perplexing, yet enjoyable route for her 8th album.
It’s been six years since Anastacia released her last project, 2017’s Evolution. For a moment there, it didn’t look like another was in the cards. During a 2021 Australian interview, Anastacia revealed that, due to what felt like muted support for the LP, “It might be that [Evolution] will be my last album – now I’ll just release singles.”
As a fan, it was disappointing. 2004’s Anastacia remains one of my all-time favorite albums, and I’ve largely loved everything Anastacia has done before and after. She’s one of my favorite singers, in part because she has a unique, massive voice that can effortlessly and equally serve a range of genres. Thankfully something sparked a change in her and her 8th album Our Songs is out now. Unfortunately for me, it’s not the album I hoped for.
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There’s an invisible line that I have to yield to as both a fan and critic. It’s the line between personal opinion and professional ear. That line has been crucial in considering Our Songs. The album has put a sour taste in my mouth from the jump, because as a huge Anastacia fan, I feel that it’s a misstep. Yet as a critic, that opinion doesn’t entirely jive with what I hear.
Part of that displeasure comes from the lack of fresh material, unless we’re counting these mostly-first-time translations as such. Our Songs is a covers record that gives German songs an English makeover. It’s both a love letter to her German fans (which has been a particularly lucrative market for the singer), and a way to expand the reach of these songs beyond their German-speaking audience.
However, there’s something confounding in focusing on promotion and tour in Germany… where they speak German, but the songs are in English. Wouldn’t it make more sense to be focusing on international markets with these English covers? The math ain’t mathing, as they say.
Our Songs isn’t a bad body of work, it just feels anticlimactic. The arc curves downwards from “I might never do another full-length LP” to “all-English versions of German songs with no original material.” Anastacia possesses one of the most malleable voices in music. She’s equally comfortable delivering a grandiose vocal show-out in front of big ballads, gritty rock, and club-ready dance records. Yet throughout Our Songs, she’s vocally subdued.
She doesn’t freely brandish her trademark big voice as she has on previous hits (whether upbeats like “I’m Outta Love” or ballads like “You’ll Never Be Alone”), and it’s disappointing. There are hints at her immense vocal capacity, but they’re mere flourishes instead of grand demonstrations. Why has she confined herself to bland, vocally restrained rock interpolations tied together by nationality?
It’s not entirely clear, but the process seems to have been meticulous. During interviews, she details the painstaking process of selection and translation. She’d sit with a batch of songs, decide what she liked musically, and then begin working carefully on translations.
Our Songs requires multiple listens to be appreciated. It’s cohesive to the point of monotony. On repeat plays, the thrilling flourishes of brilliance shine when Anastacia wraps her magnificent instrument around these melodies. Her voice is still as mesmerizing as it was when it first caught my ears 21 years ago.
Lead single “Best Days” didn’t initially quell my concerns about the album, and I wrote as much in the wake of its release. Compared to the original (“Tage wie diese”), which is basically the anthem for Germany’s national football team, it’s too mellow and low key. Second single “Supergirl” succumbs to a similar issue. She sounds fine on the song, but doesn’t do anything that’s particularly exciting or noteworthy.
One of the bright spots is the third single “Now Or Never,” which is a cover of Johannes Oerding’s “An guten tagen.” It’s an invigorating cut with a big hook that evokes “I’m Outta Love” and “One Day In Your Life,” and seemingly builds to a big vocal show-out, but unlike the aforementioned hits, it never arrives. Make no mistake, she delivers a few hair-raising runs, but she’s quite restrained compared to previous show-outs, like in the two aforementioned songs. That didn’t stop Oerding from sending her a video message not only praising her performance, but expressing his desire to duet with her.
She did manage to score a duet for Our Songs. German legend Peter Maffay comes into the fold for the English makeover of his own “So bist du.” Maffey recorded in 1979 with an Elton John/Billy Joel-ish arrangement, and then again in 2010 in a county-meets-power-ballad style. Their duet here has a more ‘80s rock root, saxophone solo included. It became the album’s fourth single, released the day before the album. As a result of their collaboration, she’s joining him on his Farewell Tour in summer 2024.
Other bright spots include her cover of the Scorpions’ 1984 power ballad “Still Loving You.” It fits Anastacia like a glove. It should be a perfect record for her to cover, because the dramatic progression of a power ballad allows her to flex her vocal capacity, but once again she holds back.
She also effortlessly stakes a claim to Tokyo Hotel’s 2005 hit “Monsoon” (“Durch den Monsun”). Though the band’s original arrangement recalls Anastacia, this version has a later-era sound (that fits alongside cuts from her last two albums). With soulful embellishments sprinkled throughout, especially on the hook, her vocal is stronger than the original, and frankly better, even without any of the extra vocal flourishes fans are used to.
“An Angel,” a 1994 cut from The Kelly Family, closes the set. The song was a tribute to the group’s mother who died from breast cancer, which Anastacia has survived twice. It’s an apt, sentimental way to tie this whole record together. While it’s not the Anastacia album I wanted, it’s the one I got, and I’d be kidding myself to say I wasn’t enjoying it. Our Songs is a solid, respectable set that takes care of the songs interpreted and serves as a reminder of Anastacia’s unique instrument and its allure. It might not put her back on top of charts around the world, but it could certainly be the invigoration she needs to soar again on her next original set.
Stream, download, and purchase Our Songs.
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