Thursday, February 18, 2021

Celeste exceeds all expectations with highly anticipated debut album 'Not Your Muse'

Although this may be the 26 year old’s first full length debut, her name has been on the lips of many for years prior to its release. We’ve had tastes of Celeste’s music dating back to 2016 with the release of single, Daydreaming, and EP’s The Milk And Honey (2017) and Lately (2019), in which she established her powerhouse vocals and sultry neo-soul sound. 

More recently, Celeste has rightfully found herself at the centre of many mainstream moments, with her music soundtracking Sky Sports weekend coverage, leading the famous John Lewis 2020 Christmas advert, and appearing on Disney movie, Soul. 

Having being noted as a ‘once-in-a-generation-talent’, receiving numerous accolades from the BBC, and accepting the ‘Rising Star’ Brit Award (following in the footsteps of household names Adele, Florence And The Machine, and Sam Smith), there are undoubtedly many high hopes pinned to Celeste’s debut album, willing it meet the same exceptional standards as her fellow peers. 

It’s safe to say that Not Your Muse is absolutely stunning, and totally encapsulates Celeste’s music: honest lyricism, raspy soulful vocals, inspiring instrumentation, and then some. Not Your Muse takes us on a musical journey, providing wistful, melancholic moments, as well as funk-esque dance anthems that are full of high spirited, contagious energy.

The slow burn opening track Ideal Woman sets the tone of the album perfectly; a self assured, confident woman, reflecting on her sometimes disappointing experiences with romance, and refusing to sacrifice any parts of herself for the sake of love ever again. Celeste claims that she may not possess the most desirable traits, ‘I’m too proud, too loud’, or that she won't be ‘the one to save you from your discontent’, and defiantly breaks free from the chains that are so often used to tie women to archaic feminine standards. Sonically, the track features smooth, arpeggiated guitars, droplets of piano, and steady, yet effective percussion; the music may be relaxing, but the message is strong: ‘please don’t mistake me for somebody who cares’. 

This confidence and conviction is embedded throughout the album, even on the more subdued, contemplative songs such as Some Goodbyes Come With Hello, Father’s Son and Beloved. Beloved sees Celeste accompanied by beautifully swelling strings and a playful bassline and marimba, as she boldly admits to longing for a certain someone that she can’t quite reach. The contrast between it’s mellow, dreamy musical foundations and sad storytelling makes for an ultimately bittersweet love song, and makes the album refreshing and easy to come back to; it's familiar but not repetitive. 

In comparison, the more up-tempo dance tracks Tonight, Tonight and Love Is Back are the happy highlights of the album. Driven by bright production and optimistic lyrics, they are both instantly catchy and memorable. Celeste has previously been compared to Amy Winehouse for sharing similar vocal melodies and tonalities, but Tonight Tonight and Love Is back are particularly reminiscent of Winehouse’s Back To Black era, echoing the jazzy percussion on Winehouse’s confessive You Know I’m No Good, and the brass inflections on Tears Dry On Their Own. 

Vocally, Celeste shines once again. There is such a tamed control to her voice, which allows her to effortlessly experiment with pace, pitch and technique. Piano ballad Strange demonstrates this perfectly, as the singer’s gentle rasp and soaring belt are beautifully integrated into the body of one song, neither quality outshining each other, but existing in harmonious balance. 

Celeste should be truly proud of this debut album. She has delivered a modern take on soul music with a nostalgic nod to older influences. With themes of self assurance, romance, heartbreak, longing, wonderment, and reclamation, it’s an album that takes us on a journey of fearlessly enjoying the thrills of romance, not forgetting to save some love for yourself too. 

Rachel Feehan




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