U.K. chart buster, Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten,” is a musical gem
It doesn’t often happen that a young female singer/songwriter releases a debut album of pop songs and ballads and almost instantly finds herself at the top of the U.K. charts.
But then Natasha Bedingfield is no ordinary woman. She hails from a musical family. Her brother Daniel Bedingfield found success this year with his mesmerizing dance hit “Gotta Get Through This.” This feat garnered the siblings a place in the “Guinness World Records” book as the only brother and sister to have solo No. 1 hits in U.K. chart history.
On this side of the pond, Bedingfield had a hot year, earning four nominations for British Female Solo Artist, British Breakthrough Artist, Pop Act and Best Single, “These Words.” The single is now triple-platinum in the U.K., and since its U.S. release this month, has continued to climb the Top 40 charts.
The lead track on “Unwritten,” opens like an early Lauren Hill joint. Bedingfield’s voice is suited to pop hits, much like that of her brother. This blond bombshell croons with an edge of the erudite, singing, “Read some Byron, Shelly and Keats/ Recited it over a hip hop beat/ I’m having trouble saying what I mean/ with dead poets and drum machines.” Standard pop fare, but you have to give credit to a woman who manages to use “hyperbole” in a pop-rap mix.
“Unwritten” continues in the same vein. In “Single,” Bedingfield lays down a celebratory ode to the single life, vowing that she doesn’t need another half to make her whole, that this tune is “My declaration of independence/ There’s no way I’m trading places/ Right now a star’s in the ascendant.”
Call it vanity, but it’s not wholly without merit. In “I’m a Bomb,” Bedingfield decides to “ditch the halo for a while” to spend a night out with the girls. Her earnestness that she is a bomb, about to explode, is the stuff of kid rock, but still, there is something there.
This energy that Bedingfield exudes, as though she truly is an untapped force to be reckoned with, weaves through all her cuts. In the title track, “Unwritten,” she sings, “I am unwritten/ can’t read my mind/ I’m undefined/ I’m just beginning.” This anthem of rising comes across with the power of a young Alanis Morissette in “Jagged Little Pill.” Her track “Silent Movie” shares this same feel.
Even when Bedingfield’s self-penned vocals lean to the hackneyed, such as in “If your Gonna,” a dance track with a fantastic Seattle grunge-style intro, elements like her cool, biting break are redeeming.
Bedingfield’s South London and New Zealand upbringing, primed her for success in the U.S. She names her musical influences as including Stevie Wonder, Brandy, The Beatles, The Cranberries and Destiny’s Child. In tracks like “Frogs & Princes,” a fast tune with a rap break, Bedingfield lays it out like a less-polished Destiny’s Child.
And while her tune “Wild Horses” doesn’t quite make the mark (better leave that equine pursuit to The Rolling Stones) she sizzles with a feline intensity in “Drop Me In the Middle,” a sultry pop tune with a cameo by rapper Bizarre of D-12. Bedingfield is determined to “make a ripple/ a domino effect.”
More than anything, superceding her claims that she “bruises easily,” or is “an empty shell,” Bedingfield’s power lies in the fact that tells her truth straight from the heart—that the world is a place where you make your own destiny. As she sings in “We’re All Mad,” “Life isn’t something you try on for size.” With her debut album, “Unwritten” Bedingfield has jumped, head-first, into the dangerous currents of the music industry. And, as only the third solo singer in U.K. history to debut at No. 1 after Annie Lennox and Bonnie Tyler she has clearly risen straight to the top.