Stacey Solomon wowed judges when she auditioned for the sixth season of the UK’s X Factor in 2009 with a rendition of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.” With her soulful voice the musician rapidly became a fan favorite and made it through to the show’s finale and came in third place in the competition.
Now, Stacey Solomon is preparing to release her first full body of work, the evocative and striding Shy. Solomon has described the album as the album she wanted to release, and it is a truly encapsulating effort filled with a variety of unique sounds. One listen will take you on a wild adventure complete with gravity defying heights and a few lows. The album is brave and honest, yet visited with a sense of depth and maturity that makes it all the more impressive. Through it all, Solomon remains confident and assured, the perfect guide through an emotional climate.
Solomon kicks off Shy with the album’s title track and lead single, a stunning and soulful track lush with vibrant instrumentals and a powerful vocal take from the form X Factor competitor. The song is a physical battle, as Solomon attempts to build up the confidence to go talk to a dream lover while fighting nerves. Solomon’s voice picks up speed and optimism as she enters the chorus. Conversely, you can feel the frustration in her voice when she asks the most important question, “why’d you have to go and make me so shy?”
The album delves even deeper into a retro-inspired, blue eyed soul approach to musicality on “Breath Away.” Solomon’s voice is reminiscent of Amy Winehouse as she longs for a man whom she had toyed with in the past. Begging for a second chance, Solomon proclaims that the man is taking her breath away and fills her with regret for her mistakes in the past. It’s an angsty and honest track, set to a really pleasant instrumentation.
Love continues to be a theme as Solomon moves into the standout “Gravity,” but this time the soulful musician isn’t longing for someone she never had. Instead, she is singing about the inescapable force that pulls her towards and eventually away from her loved one. Production picks up after a piano and string led intro, and a driving drum line and an echoing choir support the Queen of the Jungle as she moves into the chorus. There is a sense of purity and honesty to the track, as it pays tribute to the transience and unavoidable nature of love.
Solomon whispers sweet promises on the old school production of “Only You Will Do,” an endearing love song that explains exactly how special a loved one is. The track feels like a ’50s or ’60s inspired ballad and creates images in my mind of dancing at prom, and Solomon’s voice is appropriately devoted and angelic on the track. She’s making the promises a young lover would swear to their first main squeeze, but she is doing so with all the honesty of a mature woman.
Things pick up significantly on the brilliantly uplifting “The Way We Was,” which brings out a much more pop inspired production. The organic nature of live instrumentation still resounds, but the mood is much more carefree and jiv-able than previous efforts. As chimes dazzle across the top of the production, Solomon’s lyrical content is a little more somber as she reflects on return to simpler times of a childhood love. The song is almost welcoming her lover to return with her to the way things used to be, reminding him of the joy of the past with its bright sound.
It seems that Stacey Solomon is moving on from her childhood lover on “I Hope You’re Happy,” a more R&B inspired track about moving on from the past while wishing the best for her lover. There is a sense of freedom to the track, as Solomon’s voice stretches out atop the production, filling the space with her joy and well wishes. It is the sort of mature parting that comes from distance and a faith in better tomorrows. She’s no longer jaded, but ready to see what comes next.
“Perfect You” is Solomon’s ode to a lover who doesn’t need to strive for perfection, because they are already more perfect than most could ever strive to achieve. The song could fall into the category of a standard feel-good track if not for the truly gorgeous and thoughtful lyrics. This is the song you share with a loved one, one that evokes memories of your experiences together, and it is sung with the caress of a truly talented vocalist.
Solomon reflects on shades of blue on her more folk inspired “Dream In Blue.” The track takes an innovative concept, but it fails to engage the listener as previous tracks have. With a fairly stagnant production the song feels slightly out of place, or possibly underwhelming after “Perfect You,” though it did inspire a new romance novel series, Fifty Shades of Blue. I swear, it’s a totally original idea…
Thankfully, Solomon picked up the production after her series of dreamy balladry with the slightly manic “My Big Mistake.” Her vocal delivery is feather light as she sings over a frenzied production. Lyrically, Solomon is singing about honesty in a relationship, and just how many secrets from your past you need to divulge when you enter a relationship. She expresses the fear of saying too much, but the guilt of not saying enough. It’s an ages old quandary, and one that Solomon approached creatively. The song’s production is entirely imaginative and unique, making it all the more innovative and enjoyable. Who’d have guessed that relationship qualms could be set to such uplifting music?
Things take another turn for the somber on “Too Late to Love Me Now,” as Solomon reveals that you can reach the point of no return in a relationship. Over a relatively stripped back production Solomon declares that she will not revisit a past relationship. Her voice resounds with pain but a solid conviction.
After the emotional journey that is Shy, Stacey Solomon closed things up with the wholly imaginative and happy go lucky “I Walk the Line.” Over an almost tropically inspired production the songstress truly claims her title of Queen of the Jungle as she sings about toeing the fine line to maintain in someone’s good graces. The song is playful and triumphant, especially as an album closer.
Solomon’s debut album is a thoroughly enjoyable and innovative. Listening to “Shy” and then immediately following up with “I Walk the Line” would be a shocking experience. It is hard to believe that Solomon’s playful closer could follow such a hesitant and nervous vocal performance, but the growth is entirely believable if the album is experienced in whole. Over the course of the record, Solomon finds a space for herself in the world, and she’s joyous and no longer apprehensive.
The concept of an evolving character is perfectly reflected on the album. Everything about the album evolves as you listen to it. Stacey Solomon’s blue-eyed soul aesthetic grows, entering into a more pop sound before exploring a folksier musicality and settling on a sparse but upbeat instrumentation. Lyrically the album follows a similar trajectory, exploring snapshots of adventures in the past before settling into an entirely current production. The album feels as though it was approached with great maturity and depth, and Solomon’s performance is absolutely engaging throughout. This is the type of album that has something for everyone on it. It has the pop ditties, the emotional ballads, and the playful jams. Preorder your copy of Shy here, and prepare yourself to experience the journey yourself!