Over two decades since rising to fame with her dance-pop hit Absolutely Everybody, Australian singer-songwriter Vanessa Amorosi’s latest album Memphis Love brings a full-bodied soulful sound that the artist has been building upon to fruition. While the artist’s sound has primarily been pop-oriented, Amorosi began swapping out some of these elements in favour of deep, expressive ballads, acoustic and rhythm and blues-inspired rhythms with her 2020 album The Blacklisted Collection. Produced by Dave Stewart of synth-pop duo Eurythmics, Memphis Love appears to grow into this sound with confidence and spirit.
Howling opener Wolf starts the record off strongly. Introduced by Amorosi’s own animalistic cries, a funk-driven bass line and spurts of trumpets, it boasts a boldly primal groove which aligns perfectly with the artist’s powerful vocals. The flaming accusation of “You’re a wolf in sheep’s clothing!” inevitably feels personal framed against such a striking backdrop. Following track How Long brings things down a notch. Amorosi places her spin on the track by 70s English soft-rock band Ace, taking on a brightened tone with shakers, a subtle synth melody and elevated guitar solo. Amorosi’s flavoursome range continues with Lift Us Up and Don’t Judge Me, which are defined by their harmonic gospel choruses and steady organ notes.
Title track Memphis Love truly brings the liveliness of the southern city’s music scene, one that is known for its influence on blues, soul, jazz, and rock ‘n’ roll. The track rolls in busily with classic anthemic verses, growling bass, salient brass and distant calls of “That Memphis love, can you feel it?”. It plays with a sense of community and genuine celebration for the music. As Amorosi sings “Let this music bring us together,” a sense of wholeness is already evident. The record slows heartily with Too Much Of A Heartache, a composition with stylings that feel inspired by notable women in soul – from Billie Holiday to Etta James. Closer What Do I Get as a song that is primarily low piano and smooth vocals. This grows with gospel, choral harmonies and powerhouse verses that act as an urgent reminder of Amorosi’s range. The track closes the record off with a different energy to the opener, but it possesses the same fullness and vigour.
Vanessa Amorosi’s Memphis Love pays homage to a city with a vibrant and important music scene. Throughout the ten tracks on the record, it is clear that Amorosi draws from its influence, but she makes it her own with arrangements that don’t feel unvaried while not weighing on listeners with overbearing complexity. While certainly being a very long way from Absolutely Everybody, it feels as though Memphis Love possesses a sound that Amorosi has matured into and is capable of taking in exciting new directions.