Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Chapter One | Ella Henderson


★★★★☆

In the United States, the Simon Cowell-lead show The X Factor was a risk that was not worth taking. Even with Britney Spears and Demi Lovato sitting on the panel of judges, the show struggled to compete with The Voice as the leading singing competition in the country. After producing just a few noteworthy acts, it stalled and died in its third season. However, the United Kingdom variant of the show is still going strong in its eleventh season, and has produced successful acts like One Direction, Leona Lewis, and Little Mix. Ella Henderson, who finished sixth in the series' ninth season, has added her name to that list with the release of her debut album, Chapter One, which debuted at number one in the United Kingdom.

While the album's arrival in the United States sits six months after its release across the pond, Henderson began to impact the country late last year with the push of her debut single, "Ghost." The song is bound for success thanks to production credits given to Ryan Tedder, not to mention Henderson's unbreakable vocals that shatter through the lyrics. While Tedder only worked on "Ghost," his influence lingers through this album. Surprisingly, instead of some cheap imitation of Tedder-produced tracks, we are offered some well-crafted replicas. In particular, "Glow" is a driving mid-tempo track that blossoms into a chanting chorus ("We are fire, we are fire / And our love will burn / The flame will never die") and the uplifting and energetic "Pieces" thrives on its chorus as Henderson belts, "No you can't fake love / Loving the game you play / You played me from the start / It starts to end today."

Henderson's voice is a matured, palatable reincarnate of Christina Aguilera's infamous pipes (minus the roars and strained wails of Legend X), so it should be no surprise that she created her own mid-tempo self-empowerment track that hints back to Aguilera's "Beautiful." The track, titled "Giants," is a flourishing keep-your-head-up track that spirals into a gospel choir-like descant as Henderson repeats, "Don't let the fear keep you from climbing / And if you fall to the ground just keep trying / Head up in the clouds, never looking down / Nothing's gonna stop us this time around / We could be giants." Meanwhile, Henderson's organic vocals bleed with emotion over "Missed," a piano ballad dedicated to her late grandfather. It is worth noting that "Missed" was the song that Henderson used in her initial audition for The X Factor, earning her standing ovation and endless praise from the panel of judges.

Ella Henderson managed to land herself with one of the strongest mainstream pop debuts since Foxes' Glorious last year with an album packed to the brim with radio-ready songs (specifically see: the hard-hitting "Empire," the drum-heavy power ballad "Give Your Heart Away," and the Claude Kelly-assisted "Rockets" that throws her more towards Alicia Keys' side of the field). Every song on the album is specifically crafted to showcase her vocals, much like the focus of Sia's 1000 Forms of Fear. As an artist that stemmed from televised fame, many would say that Ella Henderson's longevity in the music industry is not guaranteed, but there's also a fair chance that she could easily go on to become the United Kingdom's very own version of Kelly Clarkson.

Chapter One will be released on January 13, 2015, under Columbia Records. An exclusive deluxe edition can be found at Target department stores. It can also be streamed in full for a limited time on iTunes First Play.

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