ow Do You Do?”
When these words escape the lips of Natasha Bedingfield—and trust me, they will—run far away. File a restraining order, call the police, buy a gun. Next thing you know, she’ll wanna have your “Babies.” Decline her offer? She’s “Not Givin’ Up.” She’s going to cry about you, her lost “Soulmate,” and then she’ll leave messages on your answering machine: “I’m Still Here.” You’ll contemplate suicide and reminisce about the days of yore, when Sean Kingston stuck with Fergie and UB40, when Britney Spears was the only desperate singer clogging toilets at the VMAs.
But then again, maybe life with Tashbed wouldn’t be so terrible. Yeah, on a personal level, she’s something of an emotional wreck, but when that mess transpires into songs as lovely as those on N.B., maybe the agony would be worth it. Maybe the pure joy of pop ecstasy would trump the pain of incessant stalker babble. Throughout her entire solo career, Bedingfield’s lyrical content has always revolved around honesty and love; on N.B., she takes that truthfulness to the next painstaking level, revealing her every inner-fantasy and insecurity.
“Hate those times when the mirror's not my friend / And everything I see in it offends,” she sings on “I Think They’re Thinking,” N.B.’s sweet, soulful acapella interlude. And on the slightly tepid ballad “Say It Again,” Bedingfield speaks of communication. “No need to translate / ’Cos my eyes give me away / Even though my lips don’t say.” Ironically enough, ten minutes prior, she was begging a man to impregnate her. While her lyrics convey mixed messages, Tashbed’s hooks are almost uniform in appearance: infectious, easily digestible, and dare I say it, sassy.
On the English singer-songwriter’s sophomore effort, we’re treated to a variety of different sounds, from the neo-soul warblings of “When You Know You Know” to the slinky hip-hop styling of “(No More) What Ifs.” Occasionally, Bedingfield drops a dud (the useless Sean Kingston ballad “Love Like This,” the mid-tempo bore “Backyard”), but for the most part, N.B. is loaded with memorable, well-produced tracks.
Debut single and album standout “Babies” boasts a bubbly, contagious beat and an equally memorable humming hook. The jazzy “When You Know You Know” alone bests every Joss Stone recording to date. Elsewhere, the semi-husky Bedingfield manages to sound smooth and powerful without stooping to vocal showboating exercises (and yeah, she does have the pipes to pull of those stunts). On “The Hills”-approved ballad “Soulmate,” Bedingfield sounds completely sincere, her voice restrained and soulful, but most other emotional tracks feel hackneyed and forgettable—on N.B., Bedingfield fares best with darker R&B joints.
The album’s strongest track, “Not Givin’ Up,” features Natasha delivering a desperate, swift and passionate vocal over a flawless menacing beat (chalk up another one for Danja). The track would fit perfectly on a Nelly Furtado album, but there’s something undeniable about Bedingfield’s voice. Though she has her faults, Tashbed somehow manages to ooze charisma with every note, no matter what words are coming out. At first listen, N.B. sounds creepy. But ignore the lyrics, surrender yourself to the joys of pop songwriting and N.B. seems to approach perfection.
Reviewed by: Chris Boeckmann
Reviewed on: 2007-10-02
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