Nobody could argue that the timing of Conchita’s debut album wasn’t pretty spot on, with her being the star attraction of this year’s contest, and the show and surrounding events being perfect opportunities to promote the songs. Still, for her fans it was a frustrating wait, with precious few previews throughout the year and even less of a hint as to what the album would sound like, other than Conchita’s “personal playlist,” whatever that is.
Finally last week the album was released and we got an insight into this playlist, so what does it sound like? Well given the very limited material we’ve had to go on, it might sound a bit odd to say it, but it really does sound like Conchita. Even though we’ve not heard that much original music, there’s no denying that we have seen a lot of Conchita in the last year, so the cheeky songs, the empowering songs and the vulnerable songs all fit perfectly well with what we already know of the bearded lady dubbed “Queen of Europe” by last year’s Danish hosts.
Those who first came to know Conchita through ‘That’s What I Am’ three years ago and have been gagging for something to dance / strut / mince to ever since will not be disappointed by this album, and similarly there’s plenty on here for those who have no time for that sort of carry-on. The tempo is a completely continuous scale on this album, with a few genuine floorfillers, a few unambiguous ballads, and everything else falling somewhere in between.
It’s into that first category that one of the album’s highlights falls: the 90’s house inspired song she performed during the interval of this year’s Eurovision final, Firestorm. It’s retro, contemporary, camp, cool, and reassurance to anybody who worried that Conchita didn’t have it in her to do uptempo. Think Cher coming back in 2015 and capitalising on the 90s dance throwback sound that’s going on at the moment and you won’t be far off.
However she doesn’t always get it right, and her reluctance to go permanently in the direction of dancefloor diva is probably explained by songs like Colours Of Your Love. Starting off as fairly bog-standard EDM, it then causes widespread astonishment by dropping into full on electronic, bassy, voice-sampling house, and it’s just a bit bizarre! Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad it’s on here for the sheer bonkersness of it AND (here’s one for the Eurovision fact fans) it was co-written by Cyndi Almouzni, who lost to Scooch in the UK’s 2007 national final, but Conchita has in the past criticised herself for not being “cool” enough for some uptempos, so surely she should have known she couldn’t pull this off and quietly omitted it from the final cut.
Anyway if all that gives you a bit of a headache, one of the gentler picks from the album is Pure. Written by Midge Ure no less, it was within a hair’s breadth of being Conchita’s Eurovision entry last year. Obviously we all know what eventually happened there, and there’s no way we’d even be writing this review today had she chosen ‘Pure’ for the competition, but nonetheless it is a very melodic and beautifully orchestrated mid-tempo ballad that merits a second listen to really appreciate it.
Other than the aforementioned cut, and of course Rise Like A Phoenix those pesky Swedes have their hands in every track on here, which doesn’t hurt given their ear for a good hook, and it’s the most obvious on the radio-friendly Up For Air which could definitely be a future single, and the lush Scandi-infused electro-pop ballad Somebody To Love.
Honourable mentions go to ethnic sultry gem Out of Body Experience which provides some variety even if it isn’t a particular standout, and then the catchy burlesque number Where Have All The Good Men Gone, which definitely IS a standout. It’s here that Conchita truly remembers her drag roots, goes cheeky and cabaret on us, and includes a lyrical highlight of the album, “I’ve spent oh so many nights searching every single site and I’m bored.” I guess “app” doesn’t rhyme particularly well.
In general, this album is a catchy, varied album that showcases the different sides of Conchita’s personality we know and love. If you don’t like Conchita already then this probably won’t convert you, and it’s not pushing any boundaries musically, but it’s certainly a job well done when it comes to cementing her place as the popstar she longs to be, rather than just a media personality.
Highlights: ‘Firestorm’ / ‘Where Have All The Good Men Gone’ / ‘You Are Unstoppable’ / ‘Rise Like A Phoenix’