When your mother is famous for her interpretations of Strauss and Wagner you have to feel at least a little under pressure to ‘deliver’ as a vocalist I would think. At least working in the Pop/Rock field avoids the worst of the comparisons. Senta Studer, now resident in Würzburg, has been spending her time of late vocal coaching, providing guide vocals for DSDS (Deutschland Sucht Den Superstar) and all the while assembling a creditable collection of songs for a debut disc. On 31st January ‘Happy’ will hit the shops, but will it also hit the charts?
Before putting the disc in my player I have to admit that this is aimed at a territory of music that I lost touch with a good few years ago – the Pop charts. Whether that makes me better or worse equipped to review it is for you, gentle reader, to decide.
The Pop anthem aspirations of the disc are made pretty plain with the opening tracks brief ‘Wall of Sound’ keyboard intro only for Senta to wisely step in with gentle piano and the timely advice to “Calm down, relax, keep your head cool”. It becomes something of the theme for the whole disc – on the one hand Senta’s undeniably excellent voice and on the other a multi-track wall that rushes tidal wave like in and threatens regularly to sweep away an otherwise excellent cd. I guess I should follow the ladies advice (and indeed the songs title) and just ‘Go with the Flow’.
Well I’m ‘going’ with it, and ‘Paper Boat’ is actually a very enjoyable bit of quality pop, The background rhythm is a bit too machine-like for my taste but a good one all the same. ‘Happy’ is all about being happy without the one you love – or at least thought you loved – a lot of Tori Amos in here, and indeed Tori’s is a sound that comes to mind often, usually during the best moments, on the disc. I do like the lyrics too: “Every thorn has a rose”. Nice one! On the minus side there’s too much going on at times for my liking – too many tracks overlaying. It spoils the disc a little for me at least, but maybe that’s just me.
Track four, ‘Black Snow’, now we’re talking! Irresistible piano intro and there’s a classic Rock feel about this one. “I can almost feel the cold” she’s singing and I can almost hear this on a Heart Album. The Wilson sisters would do it well – but not better than it’s done here. Track five’s ‘Counting Stars’ is back to pure Pop/Rock in the Melissa Etheridge/Alanis Morissette/Kylie Minogue mould and indeed these two tracks are a microcosm of the disc as a whole, leaping between Tori Amos piano retrospection and Jessy J style hi-energy Pop. It’s not really my kind of music but then it’s not aimed at Bluesrockers of a ‘certain’ age. What it does tell me is that Senta Studer is a lady with a lot of talent both vocally and lyrically who has assembled an excellent batch of Pop songs and the services of a producer in Peter Ries (Kylie, No Angels) who knows how to put the parts together to maximum effect.
Will she appeal to the young mp3 buyers? I’m not the person to ask. There are some very strong songs on here that I could imagine the likes of Bonn’s own Sunny Skies band doing superbly and the audience wondering what million selling artist first recorded them. It’s when she escapes the heavy background beat and multi-tracking as on ‘Winters Almost Gone’ and ‘Little Flame’ that she hits the spot for me beautifully. The disc is out at the end of January and if you like female vocalists offering top notch commercial pop/rock songs then I recommend giving it a listen – be prepared for friends to ask which mega-selling superstar is playing on your car stereo though.