The Voice winner 2013. Angel-voiced Northern Irish girl. Few could criticise Andrea Begley’s pure voice in the live competition, but can she keep the magic alive for debut album The Message?
The short answer is not really. This becomes clear almost immediately, as the album’s opening song is Andrea’s version of Ho Hey, which went down incredibly well in the live shows. Of course, it helps that the live band accompanying her then was so raw with such an original arrangement, and the audience helped with their enthusiastic chanting and clapping, but Andrea was on top form there once she got over the initial rigidity.
Unfortunately, the album version is as rigid as the live version is in its first few lines all the way through. It’s this lack of natural direction in the melodic lines plus overproduction that makes the whole album less exciting and interesting than it should be.
Andrea recently spoke to the BBC about the recording process, and said: “You record everything line by line by line by line.” It seems that she struggled to keep the emotion in that process as other artists have learnt to do.
Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing In The Dark fails to feel either haunting or bold, despite the gradual build and subtle instrumentation. Secret Smile loses all its spontaneity and the first verse in particular sounds very paint-by-numbers, which is a waste because the original is such a lovely song and Andrea’s pure voice could have brought an extra edge to it.
Breakfast At Tiffany’s has gone from being an upbeat, catchy and rocky song with a bittersweet edge to a bland and repetitive number; it’s not even redeemed by the violin as it’s already clear that this was their cop out instrument by song four.
The Message is one of only two original songs on the album and was produced by Andrea’s The Voice mentor, Danny O’Donoghue. It’s unclear why, though, because it has nothing exciting that Danny usually brings to the table, and is instead a rather bland ballad that barely has any direction.
The cover of Jake Bugg’s Lightning Bolt should never have been allowed to happen. Where has Andrea’s natural affinity with the music gone, especially since these are supposedly some of her favourite songs? The excessive reliance on strings to sound different (and probably to grab onto the Mumford & Sons trend) is extremely grating by this point on the album. There’s also a cringey stop-and-clap moment.
Sarah McLachlan’s Angel is actually quite beautiful, and rightly so, because it’s the song Andrea both started and finished with on The Voice. If she couldn’t sing that song right then I’d be seriously worried.
Latch and Autumn are not memorable at all. Take On Me and Love Will Tear Us Apart are – but not in a good way. Those are two songs that don’t suit Andrea’s style and she didn’t manage to make them sound remotely new.
Falling Slowly works quite well; it’s very pretty and subtle, and Andrea’s voice actually suits what the song is about. Finally, My Immortal is one other example of the album version matching up to both the original and her live version; it actually feels like it’s going somewhere, but it’s never over the top.
The fact that the album consists primarily of cover songs shouldn’t have mattered as Andrea brought her own perspective to every single song she sang during The Voice. Perhaps the wasted potential here was largely due to time constraints, so we could give Andrea the benefit of the doubt and see what she manages to come up with after some more thinking time. Ultimately, though, Andrea just doesn’t excite or emote at all and this is a huge disappointment.