Few artists have achieved as much attention from critics off one song as Celeste has from her breakthrough ‘Strange’. When she debuted the song for an American audience on James Corden’s ‘Late Late Show’, it was easy to see why; as she stood on the dimly lit stage, aided by just a piano, she proved herself to be a once-in-a-generation talent. The applause she received from the audience – the vast majority of whom had, no doubt, never heard of her before – was rapturous and Corden seemed uncharacteristically lost for words after the performance. It was the type of musical moment that doesn’t occur everyday and for a brief moment, it felt like the sky was the limit for Celeste. For a moment, it seemed like this little-known artist was destined to become a superstar.
‘Strange’ is still the standout track on ‘Not Your Muse’ and, somewhat regrettably, it’s not even close. Teaming up with big-name producers like Jamie Hartman (Paloma Faith, Calvin Harris, Louis Tomlinson) and John Hill (Eminem, Shakira, Rihanna) yields mixed results for Celeste. On the one hand, they help deliver catchy-as-a-rash, radio-friendly tracks like ‘Stop This Flame’ and ‘Tonight Tonight’, that are hard to imagine would exist if Celeste alone had written and produced this album. Yet, on the other hand, it feels like much of the magic that existed on ‘Strange’ has been stripped from the rest of the album. The over-production on many of these tracks takes away from the simple magic of Celeste’s voice and the masterful lyricism seen on ‘Strange’ is too often replaced by clichés on the rest of this album’s tracks (“I heard lightening don’t strike twice”, “All those bets are off”).
Still, to dismiss every track not named ‘Strange’ on this album would be a mistake. While no track ever fully reaches the heights of the aforementioned track, there are still gems scattered across the track-listing. ‘Tonight Tonight’ is a mesmerizing and sensual track that is guaranteed to get you on your feet, while the title track – a haunting number, with heartfelt lyricism and stripped back instrumentation – is the closest this album gets to recreating the magic of ‘Strange’. Meanwhile ‘A Little Love’ – from the latest John Lewis Christmas ad – is a sweet, uplifting track (even if it feels somewhat out-of-place on the album).
Elsewhere, however, the quality of the album starts to dip: ‘Love Is Back’ feels like an Amy Winehouse pastiche, while tracks like ‘A Kiss’ and ‘The Promise’ come off as forgettable, filler tracks. There are no truly bad tracks on this album – Celeste’s amazing voices saves even the most mundane tracks on here – but it’s also not an instant classic either. Yet, as far as debut album’s go, it’s not a bad start.
Best tracks: Strange, Tonight Tonight, Not Your Muse
Worst tracks: A Kiss, Love Is Back, Some Goodbyes Come With Hellos