Alexandra Burke’s Renegade is one of those delightful pop surprises that seems to come totally out of nowhere. I approached the EP with a certain amount of wariness, not knowing quite what to expect from the X Factor winner. But I came away from the work suitably impressed. This is a touchingly raw EP, and Burke’s finest release to date by quite some margin.
Every track of the EP bursts with an assurance and strength. “I refuse to lose my mind” Burke sings on Ain’t That Right, with a touching level of conviction. Even Don’t Make It Easy, the EP’s glossiest, most mainstream track, is taken to another level by Burke’s obvious emotional sincerity, and refusal to back down.
That said, title track Renegade is the ballsiest of the lot; it’s an unflinchingly self-assured track that sees Burke totally in touch with her inner reserves of resilience. Hall of Fame is a similarly solid, defiant piece, although it takes a more subtle, quieter route to its point of emotional catharsis. It’s slick, but never in a way that hurts its vein of rebellion and strength.
Burke’s voice is as impressive as it has ever been, largely because she never uses in a way that feels artificial or show-offy. Every single note she sings strikes emotionally true. She sounds best on Can We Go Down, the EP closer, a track that might be less lyrically interesting than the rest of the songs, but is perhaps the most sonically successful. It’s a lush, entertaining piece, and Shakka’s guest spot impresses rather than detracting from the experience, as it easily could have.
Renegade is thus a thrilling, powerful release. Burke has used the constraints of pop to her obvious advantage; she never lets the limitations of radio-fare get her down, and manages to accurately and pointedly communicate her deepest thoughts and desires. It’s the most successful collection of songs the singer has yet released, and, not coincidentally, it’s also her most personal.