Originally published on So So Gay on 18 September 2013.
Grammy-nominated singer, Stacey Kent is back with a new album of covers and original material, this time created through the artist’s apparent love of Brazilian music. In fact, this latest collection from Kent, called The Changing Lights, is a rather international affair. The American singer explores and utitlises her love for the Bossa Nova and all things Brazilian, while collaborating with Portuguese poet Antonio Ladeira for some tracks (Mais Uma Vez, ‘A Tarde’) and French lyricist Bernie Beaupère for another (‘Chanson Légère’).
While this mix of cultures could potentially create a disjointed album, Kent’s long-time collaborator and producer, Jim Tomlinson, clearly has excellent control of the reins. Just like all her albums, The Changing Lights is another classy and soothing collection of songs, seamlessly blending new songs with old. As with any album by the American, Stacey Kent’s vocal performance is what holds this collection together. Like a warm and inviting summer’s evening, Kent’s voice is a blissful aural experience.
The wonderful opening track, a cover of the joyful ‘This Happy Madness’, sets the tone perfectly. The album segues from one charming serenade to another. From fluttering love songs to rhythmically infectious numbers, such as promotional track ‘One Note Samba (Samba De Uma Nota Só)’, The Changing Lights is a carefully woven delight.
While so at ease cooing romanticisms over a soft instrumental, such as on the dreamy new song ‘The Summer We Crossed Europe in the Rain’, Kent is equally great on the more toe-tapping and humourous songs. Original song ‘Waiter, Oh Waiter’ is a wonderfully fun number, with Kent pleading with a waiter to help her out on a date. Clearly at a fancy restaurant where the menu is entirely in a foreign language, Kent is desperate not to disappoint her date, who’s sardonic expression is making her fret: ‘Waiter, please waiter / I really need your advice / Underneath that stiff tuxedo / You must be human too / You’ll have had your days of heartbreak / And days when your dreams came true’. Her playful yet pleading delivery is a prime example of Stacey’s excellent command of a narrative.
Like with her sublime take on Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Landslide’ on 2007 album Breakfast On the Morning Tram, Kent is able to take a well-known classic and truly make it her own. With Charlie Chaplin’s repeatedly covered ‘Smile’, Kent combines it with the Brazilian song ‘O Bêbado e a Equilibrista’ to make it something unique to her.
Rather than covering drastically new territory, and therefore potentially alienating her existing fanbase, Kent has subtly incorporated elements of another style into her own sound. The Changing Lights is a highly enjoyable album and a great addition to Stacey Kent’s back catalogue that now goes back some 15 years.
Standout Tracks: ‘This Happy Madness’ / ‘Waiter, Oh Waiter’
The Changing Lights is available to download from Amazon and iTunes now. Stacey Kent is also touring the world to promote the album this winter, with many stops in the UK. Visit her official website for further details.