How does Sam Bailey solve a problem like herself? The latest of a line of dodgy The X-Factor UK winners destined to flop, she escaped a bullet when Syco made her record this, a debut effort comprised almost entirely of cover versions of standard songs covered to death already by so many people before her, just in time for Mother’s Day in the UK, a time when people indiscriminately buy the most sentimental pap for their mothers. Sales are great, but then again, Cliff Richard sells buckets during Mother’s Day too.
See, that’s a problem in itself. When the person Ms Bailey is often compared to is Susan Boyle, in a complimentary manner, that only means that she is being seen as a cover version artist.
The song selection here is dire, but fortunately, Ms Bailey does have the powerful voice to do them justice. Her interpretation of standard dire anthems like The Power of Love and From This Moment On is above average, thanks to her controlled vocal prowess. On paper, having this dear cover soul and R&B classics like Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and And I Am Telling You seems like a tragedy in the making, but she acquits herself very well.
It’s just that, yikes, do we really need to hear these songs again? There You’ll Be again? The only surprise, perhaps, is her unexpectedly captivating version of Demi Lovato’s Skyscraper: it shows the magnificence of this song when it’s performed by someone with a powerful set of lungs. Unfortunately, this song lacks the vulnerability that made Ms Lovato’s performance of that song a bittersweet kind of heartbreak to listen to.
This problem extends to every other song in this collection: Ms Bailey’s voice is clearly her best asset, but she wields it like a bludgeon, without showing any nuances to suggest that she understands the emotions flowing through the song. This is especially evident in And I Am Telling You – it’s no longer about defiance and bravado, it’s a competition to see who can hit the highest note the longest between her and Nicole Scherzinger.
Ultimately, the songs here are very listenable, but they do not rise above being mere cover versions by a competent vocalist who deserves some material that she can connect to. As a friend noted, listening to this CD is like being in a masterclass cruise ship or Vegas performance. It’s good while it lasts, but once the show is over, it’s time to move on without any backward glance.
Ms Bailey deserves better than this, but would she be given the chance to be anything more than a Susan Boyle-like cash cow for Syco? Time would tell. I’d like her to succeed, but I’m not keeping my hopes high. This is Syco we are talking about, after all.