Michelle McManus - The Meaning Of Love

This is difficult...like, where to begin. I had a few good lines about Michelle McManus but I used all of them up on the review of the All This Time and now, come the release of the album, I'm left with a bag of ideas that's threadbare and with little to occupy it but a well-fed moth. And it's not that the music is provoking a whole lot of passion either - five songs have passed, I'm in the middle of something called Too Fast Too Slow but it took a look at both the display on the CD player and the booklet to figure that out.

Six songs in and absolutely nothing is happening. 'course the occasional moment kind of jumps out but that's only because so much of it is like the awfully nice music sung by Carol Lynley and the scruff of hippies that accompany her onboard the Poseidon and I love that film. Otherwise, it's like finding yourself listening to Sarah Kennedy on Radio 2 - whilst pleasant enough, you wonder how the dial got there and it's only when concentrating on that question that you notice there is actually music being played.

Now none of this is to really criticise Michelle McManus as she's got a great voice and whatever's said about her size, remember that Aretha Franklin's never gonna feature in an advert for Ryvita either. But Aretha's got soul, real passion for the music - think of how the chorus to R.E.S.P.E.C.T. leaps out of even the tinny of radios - and despite her Pop Idol success, Michelle McManus has as much passion, as much fire in her heart as Ronan Keating, who, were he any more dull, would actually turn beige. No doubt, though, Michelle McManus could belt out the songs were she allowed to but like a groom who brings pyjamas to the bridal suite, you know that it just ain't gonna happen.

Then again, look down the album credits and Diane Warren, Gary Barlow and Cathy Dennis all make regular appearances. Alright, I'd dearly love Diane Warren's bank balance but it would only be fair compensation for being laboured with a knack to turning out songs as inoffensive as water. Never mind the charts, Barlow's failed to even set his own fire alight and, as for Cathy Dennis, were it ever 19 Management's intention to have their Pop Idol winner hark back to a few dull, dull months in the late eighties, which is precisely how long Cathy Dennis' career as a pop star lasted, then they're headed in the right direction. I had always hoped that were we ever to go through a full-on eighties revival then it would be whilst we were wearing Frankie Says... T-shirts, listening to Rio on our oversized Walkmen and trying to avoid being one of three million unemployed but Cathy Dennis? That's like hoping for a Rick Astley revival!

Yet, the album does have one genuinely great moment, which demonstrates why the songwriters are key to the success or failure of this type of album. Written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse, Feeling Good has got the kind of quality etched through it that not even I could do it a disservice whilst out of both body and mind on the most powerful hallucinogenic available and even this version is wonderful.

The rest of it? I could take or leave and whilst it's not so objectionable as to warrant a poor score, it's not deserving of a good one either. Simply that its lack of passion is its failing and so it might soundtrack a few motorway journeys, its likely that a year or two from now, the phrase, "I must get out that Michelle McManus album" will be as frequently used as, "Hey nonny no!" is now.



out of 10

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