CocknBullKid - Adulthood
What's that scratching at the door to chart stardom? Following the international success of Adele this year, a slew of copycat soul balladeers are undoubtedly being prepped for similar glory by record execs wanting a taste of the pie. It could have been so easy for CocknBullKid, aka Anita Blay, to have crafted some derivative slowies in the vein of 'Someone Like You' and been first to cross the threshold. However, Blay wisely chose a different route that reflects years spent grafting on the indie scene and has applied her soulful tones to an album of songs that not everyone and their mom will be exposed to via endless airplay, but certainly deserves a place in any pop fan's collection.
In her time spent waiting in the wings, Blay has obviously acquired the skillset necessary for writing quality pop music. Helped along by Liam Howe's assured production and contributions from Joseph Mount and Peter Morén, Adulthood is frequently a breath of fresh air. The title track is a relatively lo-fi introduction that eases the listener in with its sweet melody and honeyed harmonies, but 'CocknBullKid' establishes the skittish tone that prevails with its singalong chorus and colourful confidence. Single 'Hold On to Your Misery' is all about turning pain into something positive and proceeds to demonstrate with a chorus that makes S Club 7's 'Reach' sound a bit down in the dumps in comparison. Piano ballads are all well and good but, while her lyrics are never less than thoughtful, Blay is more concerned with getting punters dancing than tugging at the heart strings.
In fact, the title is a misnomer because, despite the mature approach to its crafting, much of Adulthood is imaginative with a sunny disposition; Blay is only in her mid-twenties after all, and her major label debut is a rejection of the current trend for 'serious' and 'grown-up' (read: boring) love songs. 'Mexico' showcases her at her sassiest and provides a glimpse of her inner R'n'B diva, but a point of reference for the rest of the record is the credible, slightly offbeat pop that Sugababes never bettered after their first album. 'One Eye Closed' is as welcome as 'Overload' was back in 2000, and Blay's voice often resembles Siobhan Donaghy who sadly disappeared after her own underrated solo efforts. Occasionally, treacly whimsy proves a bit cloying (as on 'Bellyache' with its lyric about 'pocketfuls of snowflakes') but there are enough should-be hits, like current single and love letter to London 'Asthma Attack', for one to hope that Blay finds the success she deserves. If she doesn't, well, there's always the ballad route...