There’s something wonderfully old-school and effortlessly beautiful about Katie Melua’s music, and her new album Ketevan is no exception.
Ketevan, which is actually Melua’s Georgian birth name, is the singer’s sixth studio album, ten years after her debut album and hit single The Closest Thing To Crazy, which sold more than 11 million albums, received 56 platinum awards, and earned her a place as one of Britain’s most successful recording artists of the millennium.
The first single off Ketevan was written by Melua’s long-time collaborator Mike Batt, and was commissioned to be sung by Melua at the 60th anniversary of The Queen’s Coronation. I Will Be There beautifully fits such an occasion, but also has widespread appeal in that it is centred on a strong and caring matriarchal figure. It is a very uplifting song, and probably the most modern sounding song on the album, with Melua’s trademark soaring voice and string section, but with added synths and a driving beat.
The rest of the album keeps with this tone, and all of the songs are wonderfully relaxed. There is also great variety in the subject matter of the songs, and in each of these Melua manages to perfectly capture her theme. The album opener, Never Felt Less Like Dancing captures that frustration of being so unhappy and unwilling to participate, but being forced to put on a smile and do it anyway. It’s quite a forlorn song, full of tension, which is really emphasized by the simple instrumentation of voice, piano and bass. The music in Sailing Ships From Heaven perfectly complements the lyrics, emulating the rolling waves and sweeping soaring boats in Katie’s vocals, muted strings and beating drums. There are songs on that fear felt when you’re so in love and terrified you’re going to mess it up (This Is The Love I’m Frightened Of), and songs on the frustration, torture and addiction of being in love (Love Is a Silent Thief). There’s even a funny little song poking fun at herself, with cute little rhymes that really catch your ear (Idiot School).
The music itself on the album also varies, never leaving things to get boring. There are simple, stripped back instrumentations of piano only, there are brass sections and drum kits in some songs, and even, as previously mentioned, synths and electronic instruments. Melua’s voice itself also has the ability to change genre. In some songs she songs positively classical, and yet in others she is rootsy-blues and almost dirty, and in others like a 1920’s jazz singer. Somehow though, Melua and Batt still manage to keep all these songs together. At no point does it sound like they are trying to change genres, they just do and it works seamlessly.
Ketevan is an album that will never go out of style. Melua’s unique and astonishing voice has a richness and maturity like no other (although at times you could definitely compare her with Lana Del Rey, only better), and this teamed with her and Batt’s stunning song writing make for a truly beautiful album that is perfect for any and every occasion.