Gareth Gates, “What My Heart Wants to Say” (SonyBMG, 2002)
After letting this one sit on my shelf since it was released, I finally got around to listening to it this week in procrastinating bliss. Gates is the runner-up in the first round of Pop Idol, the British show that produced Will Young, as well as its more renowned American spin-off American Idol and the trend of the musical reality show. Overall, the album is well-balanced and very much intended for Gates’ voice. “Unchained Melody” and “What My Heart Wants to Say” are the stand-out tracks of the album, but listening to it in light of all the Idol winners and runner-ups that have released CDs since then, the album really shows how time has altered the franchise. The album is mainly songs that would be sung by a singer on the show, rehashes of “classic” songs with classy band accompaniments. Good, neither outstanding nor disappointing.
Aoyama Thelma 青山テルマ, “Emotions” (Universal Music LLC, 2009)
Thelma’s first album, “Diary,” was surprisingly balanced and well-crafted for someone who was in danger of being a one-hit wonder with the hit number “Soba ni iru ne,” an answer song to the earlier “Koko ni iru yo” featuring SoulJa (who has not fared as well in the music world). This second album continues to hone the R&B sound created in the first album, and without a stand-out song to draw attention from the album as a whole, the pieces appear to fit together even better than before. The only “bad” song on the album is “WANNA COME AGAIN,” inspired by m-flo’s “come again,” which is a jarring disruption from the mellow beats of the album, but which stands well on its own. Worth your valuable dollars.