Culture, Music

Review: Alexandra Stan – Unlocked (2014)


Alexandra Stan - Unlocked albumThe second album from Romanian dance-music queen Alexandra Stan (Mr Saxobeat from 2010) is either your ideal bubblegum pop album or your idea of manufactured musical hell, where every track reminds you of three or four others.

Clearly influenced by – or slavishly imitating – the likes of Britney, Rihanna and Sia, the production sound will make or break it for you. There’s plenty to like and plenty to dislike in this eclectic bunch of tunes shop-lifted from other artists and producers. There’s even a three-act narrative arc, of sorts. Gosh.

Opener Little Lies is entirely a Britney number from the Britney Jean album, complete with helium-lifted vocals and overwrought production, bouncy and up-tempo, and nowhere near as bad as the irritating Cherry-Pop, the verse let down by an horrific chorus and a truly nasty backing track. And the ‘bonus’ remix is even worse.

Dance is a summery David Guetta-inspired Euro-dance number that rattles along. If only the quality of the song-writing were better; I don’t exactly expect a Shakespearean Sonnet, but even S-Club 7 had better material than this. Back to Light is half a decent song which leans toward Sia via Guetta or Calvin Harris, until it hits another car crash of a chorus.

It feels like Act Two when we reach mid-tempo ballad Give Me Your Everything; a Rihanna sound-alike single which reminds us our Romanian pop-poppet can actually sing. Then we’re off around the world with Bangra-beats and samples mixed into Kiss Me Goodbye; fortunately copyright law isn’t all that strong in Romania, else Rihanna’s lawyers would be onto this one.

Digital fizzes along, the perfect pop tune for teenage girls, bland and inoffensive, followed by Zoom Zoom, fast and very West Coast, Katy Perry – or possibly Dragonette. Set Me Free is a mid-tempo Sia-sounding power ballad and possibly the best song on the album, with its’ Guetta/Harris Euro-dance sound.

Celebrate goes all German disco, after Cascada’s identikit Eurovision style; sadly ruined by Pinky and Perky on backing vocals. Happy does what it says in the title, back to Britney before she got desperate to shock in search of a hit, a decent, restrained little construction that doesn’t try too hard.

Then the album hits Act Three in the drama. Thanks for Leaving is the grown up, breaking up ballad that could score big ponts in a Eurovision Song Contest, in which our Alex goes for the big Kelly Clarkson sweeps.

Holding Aces is the post-break up, I Will Survive number that carries itself well for the finale.

The deluxe edition rounds off with a bunch of remixes of varying quality, a bit of a needless encore you should really skip, unless you want to be reminded of the glory days of Mr Saxobeat (Dance remixed).

Unlocked has some highlights amongst the derivative, magpie-collected sparkle of pilfered pop, you might just find it difficult to remember by the end. RC

Related: Review Kelly Clarkson – Wrapped in Red

About Robin Catling

Writer; performer; project manager; sports coach; all-round eccentric.

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