It’s a very good week for Ingrid Michaelson. I expected big things of the New Yorker, who is of Swedish and Dutch ancestry when ‘Hell No’, the debut single from her seventh album ‘It Doesn’t Have To Make Sense’ appeared earlier this year. There was an edge and a slightly vicious sense of humour in her music that I’d not seen from her before. She has not disappointed. The album is excellent, and climbed to the No 1 spot in my Album Chart last weekend (holding off strong debut entries from The Naked and Famous and Kings of Leon among others), and second single ‘Whole Lot Of Heart’ is heading for the Top 10 in the Singles Chart at present. But best of all is the album’s lead off track ‘Light Me Up’, which reaches No 1 on the Heatseekers Chart this week. ‘Light Me Up’ is a simply glorious love song, beautifully constructed from its curious snippet of sound intro to the point where the piano chimes in. It’s emotional and powerful, but the highlight for me are the lyrics in the opening two verses. “Well you’re not what I was looking for” sings Michaelson, before the real power of this new love strikes her. “And you taught me what a life is for – to see that ordinary… isn’t”. And later… “I want to see you with my eyes… but I see you in the fireflies. And how extraordinary is that?” From a background of solid but unremarkable AOR, Michaelson has jumped into the stratosphere as one of the year’s biggest successes. And ‘Light Me Up’ is going to do very well when it crosses over into the Singles Chart next week.
Right behind Michaelson is Jillian Banks and ‘To The Hilt’, the fourth single from her much anticipated second album ‘The Altar’. I found ‘The Altar’ to be a curiously uneven piece of work – almost a little disappointing in places, in fact. There are some excellent songs (and current singles chart No 11 ‘Mind Games’ is the obvious standout) but also some rather plodding tracks that feel like filler. Banks is at her best when she lets her voice become the focal point of the music – because she really has a hauntingly gorgeous voice. It is bruised and almost broken in places. ‘Mind Games’ allows her the scope to fully capitalise on this, but ‘To The Hilt’ might be even better. A beautiful piano backed ballad, Banks sings of a man who was with her when she set out on her music career, but who has been unable to cope with the trappings of fame and success that have come her way. “Hated you for leaving me… you were my muse for so long. Now I’m drained creatively… but I miss you on my team”. It’s absolutely lovely. Banks herself clearly feels a deep attachment to the song, which is the closing track on ‘The Altar’ for a reason. “It is special to me, that song. It’s sacred to me. It just feels… It felt like it needed to be the last thing you heard from me. It’s a bit gentle. It also doesn’t fit in between songs. It needs space because it’s so emotional. It needs time to breathe and to be digested.” she said about ‘To The Hilt’. It is a song that gives you everything good about Banks. I am really looking forward to hearing her perform the song live… clearly, it needs to be the last song on the setlist.
A couple more highlights to tell you about. Haley Bonar already has two Top 20 singles from her current album ‘Impossible Dream’ in ‘Kismet Kill’ and Top 10 hit ‘I Can Change’ – now ‘Stupid Face’ looks set to do very well, having climbed to No 3 in the Heatseekers Chart. Denmark’s Agnes Obel has released her new album ‘Citizen Of Glass’ this week (review coming in the next few days), and she follows current Top 10 single ‘Familiar’ with two Heatseekers Top 10 entries in ‘Golden Green’ and ‘Stretch Your Eyes’. And it’s a welcome back to the chart for Little Mix. The former X Factor winners are an interesting band in chart terms, because they do churn out some rather run of the mill stuff which I can easily ignore. I hated ‘Black Magic’, a real lowest common denominator jumble of all that is wrong with pop music, for example. But when they are good… ‘Change Your Heart’ is a majestic song, and the girls-only vocal version of ‘Secret Love Song’ is pure unadulterated pop perfection, sung quite gloriously by Perrie and Jade in particular. New single ‘Shout Out To My Ex’ is quite fun, and very pointed in a ‘Hell No’ fashion about a shall-remain-nameless former partner of one of the band members (hello Zayn!) It’s not going to be a huge hit but probably will make the Top 40, and a Heatseekers new entry at No 17 is not a bad start.