BY SARAH DROGHEO, Guest Writer
Male, by Natalie Imbruglia, was released by Sony Music on July 31. It is her first album in six years (since Come to Life, released in 2009). Imbruglia is perhaps best known for her single “Torn”, from Left of the Middle released in 1997. This song was regularly and harmoniously played on radios across the world throughout the late 90s and early 2000s. She took the world by storm with her distinct voice, raw emotion, and unmatchable charisma. However, many soon forgot about Imbruglia after the initial popularity rush from “Torn.” Several albums and years later, Imbruglia may have just reclaimed her fans’ devotion.
Male is a cover album that is listed under the genres of pop, pop-rock, and indie-rock. However, it also has a somewhat folk music vibe to it that her prior albums lacked. This is not necessarily a pro or a con — just a difference. The album covers songs from various male artists and groups (including Zac Brown Band, Daft Punk and Tom Petty) — hence the title Male.
The album begins with “Instant Crush” (Daft Punk) — perhaps intentionally to send the message that you’ll form an instant crush on the album. Whether intentional or not, this song draws you in and leaves you asking for more. It is my personal favorite, as its repetitious refrain is very classic Imbruglia in its rhythm and tone. The second song on the album is “Cannonball” (Damien Rice). It initially feels like it may be a slower song, but it eventually picks up in pace and interweaves into itself the inspirational message that life teaches us to embrace uncertainty. “I Will Follow You into the Dark” (Death Cab for Cutie) is presumably the most melancholy and poignant song on the album. The lyrics stating, “If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks, then I will follow you into the dark,” express the undying loyalty between two people as they journey into the unknown. A particularly fun song on the album is “Friday I’m in Love” (The Cure). It is an upbeat, bubbly and lively piece that would go perfectly in a folk-dancing setting. The final song on the album is “The Wind” (Cat Stevens). This is an absolutely gorgeous end to the album. It almost has a resolving feel to it that makes the album feel complete. Perhaps Imbruglia is speaking directly to her fans when she sings, “I let my music take me where my heart wants to go.” She fearlessly tried something that’s quite out of her element with Male and may be saying, “I needed to do this album simply because it felt right.”
From a critical standpoint, the feedback is generally quite positive. Billboard.com says “Imbruglia brings her feathery femininity,” to otherwise masculine songs. Likewise, All Music Guide says that Natalie has “always been a sweet, pleasant crooner and Male plays to those very strengths.” One critique that many fans seem to have is that it is simply an album filled with covers and doesn’t feature any of her original work. While this is true, one could argue that it is simply refreshing to see Imbruglia back in the music industry in the first place. Additionally, others are speculating that it could be a prelude to her going back full-force with an original album in the near future. Perhaps she is just testing the waters for now. Either way, it can never hurt to enjoy eloquent lyrics and vocals, regardless of if the lyrics came from that specific vocalist.
I personally enjoyed this album for many reasons. First, I appreciated the fact that Natalie had the courage to try something different than her norm. The combination of this confidence with her talent helps her to pull it off. Secondly, I find the album to be catchy in an untypical way. Unlike many songs on the radio that stick with you because of their novelty, this album sticks with you because of its quality and emotional appeal. Finally, I find all of the songs to have an uncomplicated, charming quality that isn’t always present in modern pop. Instead of trying to utilize the latest high-tech sound effects and to appear as contemporary as possible, Imbruglia lets the gentle instrumentation and vocals speak for themselves.
As one can see, Male is a bright, unique and alluring album that has a feeling of being both classic and fresh. For all of these reasons, I would recommend it. Anyone who enjoys pop, pop-rock, or folk music will be able to find something they like about the album. If you’re in the need to switch up your usual playlist, take a listen to Male and relish in the melodies.