Kurt Nilsen - I
It doesn't start well...and that's only by looking at the back of the CD case and finding that the lead single, She's So High, has been pushed towards the back end of the album after an ill-advised cover of a Duran Duran song, Ordinary World. As noted in the review of She's So High, it's as good a song as any other recorded by one of the Pop Idol winners but by pushing it to the end of the record - one of three songs that does not have a co-writing credit by Nilsen, including Ordinary World and Beautiful Day, the latter written by U2, which fall in as tracks nine and thirteen, respectively - Nilsen would clearly like us to respect his own songwriting. But given Pop Idol's disregard for writing over singing the songs of others, how does Nilsen's break from the conventions of the contest stack up against the covers?
Before the verdict on Nilsen's writing...Louis Walsh, who manages or has managed bands like Boyzone, Westlife, Girls Aloud and Samantha Mumba, held film to a very strict rule in that none of his acts would write their own material. Singers they were, writers they were not. Even as Ronan Keating left Boyzone and co-wrote his solo material in an effort to be taken seriously as an adult-orientated singer/songwriter, so Walsh publicly criticised his one-time charge for his vanity. Simon Fuller's opinion is obviously close to Walsh's given the UK Pop Idol's habit of recording standards or material written by others, exemplified by poor little Gareth Gates falling out of the bottom of the pop charts following a string of covers. Once again, how will Nilsen's own writing slip under the watchful eye of 19 Management's guarding of their Pop Idol Property?
Actually, not very well for despite Nilsen's efforts to play it straight; so straight, in fact, that Nilsen never gets beyond a pop/rock sound that limps along like a well-meaning, but ultimately unwell, dog. Much of this is due to Nilsen's lyrics, which, whilst never so bad as to be worthy of quoting here, simply aren't terribly good. It's possible that some of this could be due to a poor translation from Norwegian to English but there's a lingering doubt that Nilsen ever recorded anything in Norwegian having had it suggested to him at an early stage, no doubt, to sing in English, the international language of pop.
The value of that last brace of covers is in their showing the difference between Nilsen and Don's songs and those by Duran Duran and U2. Sadly for Kurt Nilsen, Ordinary World is not even that great a Duran Duran song but whilst it is amongst the best recorded by the band with Warren Cuccurullo, it's far from Rio, The Chauffeur, Skin Trade or any of the other songs that make up a list of the band's best. But here, even when sung by Kurt Nilsen and not Simon Le Bon, it's sounds like the greatest song one's ever heard. Similarly, Beautiful Day isn't even that great a song but here, it's a good ballad.
Kurt Nilsen probably ought to be congratulated for at least trying to write an album on his own but there's not enough here for it to stand out. After all, how many of those who buy this album will even care whether Nilsen has co-written much of the material? I'm guessing as many as those who care that Michelle McManus and Gareth Gates did not and no matter where the writing is credited, that fact means that Kurt Nilsen - World Idol or not - is but one more 19 Management intern who we'll struggle to remember a year from now.