Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Album review: Delta Goodrem - Child Of The Universe

2003 marked a turning point in my love for music, for the preceding five years I'd been obsessed with pretty much only dance music but a teenage girl from Australian soap opera Neighbours was about to change that. First time I heard Delta Goodrem's Born To Try I instantly loved it and I've been a huge fan ever since, to the point where I count her debut album Innocent Eyes and follow up Mistaken Identity as my two all time favourite albums. Third album Delta was a bit of a dip in form to say the least, with a lot of bland filler and uninspiring lyrics, although it did house my favourite song of hers to date, the majestic Believe Again. Long awaited fourth album Child Of The Universe has been a long time coming, five years to be exact, during which time she broke up with Brian McFadden, then dated and broke up with Nick Jonas. With her judging role on The Voice in Australia, it seems that although not the untouchable icon that she once was in Australia, she still has a huge fanbase and is constantly winning over new supporters. So after living with the album for a week or so, here is my initial assessment:

1. Child Of The Universe - The title track, and it's a perfect opener, a powerful slightly dark chorus and excellent frantic production, an instant Delta classic setting the tone for the rest of the album. 9.5/10

2. Touch - A slightly more organic song which took a while longer to grow on me but the melody eventually worked its way into my consciousness and it's lyrically excellent again. 8.5/10

3. Wish You Were Here - The album's third single, and the one released immediately before the album, so lead single depending on your definition of the concept. Wish You Were Here has already gone down a storm in Australia, hitting the top five and it's not hard to see why. The haunting ode to Delta's lifelong friend Liam O'Flaherty, who was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2009, is an incredibly gorgeous song, with emotion that I haven't felt in a Delta song since the 2004 album track Extraordinary Day, about her reaction to being diagnosed with cancer in July 2003. An absolute highlight of not just the album, but her career in general, the piano and string arrangement and her crisp but stunning vocals really bring the story to life, and you can almost feel what she went through. 10/10

4. Knocked Out - A real change of pace here as the jaunty pop/country track Knocked Out could have almost come from either her debut album, or Taylor Swift's back catalogue, not that either of these are anything less than a great thing. Knocked Out is an instantly catchy pure pop song with a fantastic chorus with shades of Lenka in the cute 'da da da da's that pop up throughout and then close the song. Could be a single. 9.5/10

5. Sitting On Top Of The World - The song that re-introduced us to Delta back in the first half of the year, the anthemic and positive Sitting On Top Of The World sits brilliantly next to the similarly jaunty Knocked Out. It's not hard to see why this was such a big hit in Australia, it's pure pop joy! 9.5/10

6. I'm Not Ready - Originally a duet with Michael Bolton, Delta's solo version of I'm Not Ready is probably the most fragile song on the album, really highlighting the strength of her vocals with just a piano to accompany it. I personally feel that it has far more emotion than the original duet version and it was a great choice to put it on the album. 9/10

7. Hunters And The Wolves - With every Delta album I have a 'moment', a song which seems so unique and incredible and stands head and shoulders above the rest for me, those songs were: Innocent Eyes, Extraordinary Day and Believe Again. For this album it has to be Hunters And The Wolves. This is pretty much the best song that Tori Amos never recorded, melodically, vocally, lyrically and in terms of production. This absolutely should be a single but every time Delta tries to put out something more leftfield, it seems to underperform (Mistaken Identity, Dancing With A Broken Heart), so maybe one of the more commercial songs would better suit the charts. Either way, this is an absolute gem and easily one of my favourite songs of the year thus far. 10/10


8. Dancing With A Broken Heart - The second single from the album, released in the summer, Dancing With A Broken Heart didn't find much favour with the Australian public, barely denting the top 20. It's a bit of an experimental track, moreso than most Delta singles, so perhaps that was the problem. The album version is even moreso, with a slightly dated dance beat replacing the original production, making it sound even more than ever like something Sophie B Hawkins would have released in 1994. Others have called this song a career high, I think it's fantastic but it's perhaps not as instant as some of her other singles, still damn good though. 9/10

9. Hypnotized - Back to a more jaunty pop after a bit of a mixed bag in the middle of the album. Not one of my favourites on the album, but it's still very pleasant and would be a highlight on a lot of other artist's albums! 8.5/10

10. Safe To Believe - One of the most unexpected tracks on the album, Safe To Believe is essentially a lost Mariah Carey classic from the early 90s. An R&B style ballad complete with gospel choir with a timeless melody and key change which really shows off Delta's powerhouse vocals, the real shock is towards the end where Delta even pulls off a Mariah style high pitched vocal trill. Impressive stuff. 9/10

11. The Speed Of Life - Another piano led, slightly dark track, lyrically and production wise, this one slightly reminds me of a Timbaland produced version of Joan Osborne's One Of Us once the production really kicks in halfway through the first verse. I actually probably prefer the verses to the chorus on this one, with a stronger chorus it would probably be a mark higher. 8.5/10

12. War On Love - An instant fan favourite, it's easy to see why. Unlike Delta's usual song structure, this goes straight into the chorus before going into the verses. Oddly, the structure of the verses is almost exactly the same as the previous song, this one also being vaguely reminiscent of Joan Osborne's One Of Us! War Of Love however does what Speed Of Life didn't and provides a stellar chorus that has echoes of Kelly Clarkson's Behind These Hazel Eyes melodically. 9.5/10

13. I Lost All Love 4 You - Probably my least favourite song on the album, not that it's bad but there's an air of filler to it and I think the word 'for' would have suited Delta more than the number '4' in the song title. Minor niggles aside, it's a pleasant mid-tempo pop song with a strong vocal from Delta and would have made a nice b-side. 7.5/10

14. When My Stars Come Out - This is absolutely excellent, a definite personal highlight of the back end of the album, this fast paced pop song sounds like it's come straight from the Grease soundtrack or an S Club 7 album and sounds like it could have been written alongside the similarly bubbly single Sitting On Top Of The World. It marks yet another different sound for the album too, fantastic pop with a brilliant and instantly infectious chorus! 9.5/10

15. Control - The official album closer, although I'll also be reviewing the two iTunes Australia bonus tracks. Control is another slower tempo quite dark track, reflecting as most of the album does on her various relationships and breakdowns over the past few years since the last album. Control is a good song, one of the best on the album lyrically, but probably not musically, although her vocals are incredibly good on the brooding chorus. 8/10

16. Alcohol - This gives me vibes of Mistaken Identity hidden track Nobody Listened. Suitably dark, and clearly about a certain ex boyfriend's addiction to drink, perhaps this is why the track was relegated to iTunes bonus track status. It's a crying shame that it was because it's one of the strongest tracks of the era with a punchy and powerful chorus and vocal delivery and brutally honest lyrics. 9.5/10

17. No Communication - This track however, can keep its iTunes bonus track status. It's actually better than a couple of the main album tracks and perhaps more 'classic Delta' than most, it sounds like a lost b-side from the Mistaken Identity era. Another lyrically honest asssessment of a relationship breakdown, it's melodically strong but not amazing. 8/10

Overall - This is my most listened to album in years, as a huge Delta fan it's probably more difficult than most to be particularly objective with her music but then I'm the first to call out third album Delta as being hugely underwhelming in parts. Perhaps Delta sounds better to me when dealing with relationship breakups and life's trials and traumas than when singing about being content and everything being perfect, a la the majority of the Delta album. She certainly has her mojo back and Child Of The Universe is a massive return to form, fusing gorgeous dark ballads and mid-tempos with jaunty Tori Amos style uptempo pop via country, gospel and electro on the way. Yet despite this relative lack of cohesion, at no point does it feel like a mess.

A near perfect fourth outing for Delta, my only minor niggle is that Sitting On Top Of The World's fantastic b-side Uncovered probably deserved a place somewhere on the album, perhaps in place of I Lost All Love 4 You, and iTunes bonus track Alcohol was worth a lot more than just being that. Nevertheless, this is a stunning album. If you get the deluxe version you also get a bonus disc with the majority of the album tracks reworked into more acoustic/organic productions, which is also absolutely fantastic and well worth checking out. Just one thing, release it in the UK Delta! You had five top ten hits here before abandoning us straight after scoring your second top three hit. Radio 2 would absolutely lap this album up and with promo I could actually see the album being fairly successful here! 10/10

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your review. I love Child of the universe. The only album ive been listening to since 26/10 when it was released. I find all the songs are great least favourite is Dancing with a broken heart but otherwise they are great I agree Alcohol should have been on the album. I do find however its not a sing along album ha (like Innocent eyes) =P