Corinne Bailey Rae’s breathy and relaxing vocals first caught the music world’s eye when EMI Records released her self-titled album in March 2006. Hits like “Put Your Records On” made her listeners want to drive down the Pacific Coast Highway in an open convertible. “Like a Star” made her fans yearn for a rainy day to sit and melt away with the smooth blend of jazz and pop.
In 2008, she took home a Grammy for Album of the Year and contributed to Herbie Hancock’s River: The Joni Letters which won Best Contemporary Jazz Album.
Although the collection of covers features songs by legendary artists, much of Rae’s honestly soulful writing found in her last album, The Sea, is lost. The album only consists of her singing already established classic songs.
The EP opens with a playful cover of Prince’s 1979 hit “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” True to the original, the song features a base of a funky synth, rhythmic tune. In what seems to be an effort to mimic Prince’s quirky high falsetto, Rae’s unique and laid back voice is instead strung out to sound like a mere imitation.
The second cover is a rendition of the early ’90s rock and slightly punk song “Low Red Moon,” by Belly. A strong and distorted electric guitar riff, an unusual opening for Rae, gives way to her haunting voice, where throughout the song a back-up vocalist can be heard whispering and repeating the words after she sings. Her wistful vocals provide a new and current appeal to Belly’s song, but it still lacks Rae’s fresh and unique writing talent that has impressed her listeners over the last two albums.
The single “Is This Love,” which was released on Sept. 21, 2010 and is perhaps one of the songs most clearly distinguishable from the original version. The cover is an obvious rendition of the song sung by the classic reggae artist Bob Marley, but Rae adds a blues twist. Played in what seems to be a slower or more sedate rhythm in three-quarters time, along with Rae’s calming voice, the song could make a perfectly romantic waltz.
“My Love,” a No. 1 hit in 1973 by Paul McCartney and Wings, is another cover that is included in The Love EP. The track starts out with little more than Rae’s voice and the rhythmic picking and strumming of an acoustic guitar, displaying her ability to hold her listener’s attention with merely her soothing voice.
The potential for another artistic version of Paul McCartney’s hit is disrupted in the middle of the track, when an out of place synthesizer, sounding almost as if it came out of Disney’s Main Street electrical parade, disrupts the smooth flow of the song. Missing the mark, Rae falls into a musical category far below McCartney’s.
The final cover on the EP is a live version of the song “Que será, será,” made famous in the mid ’50s by Doris Day and later by the ’70s band, Sly and the Family Stone. Rae and her band fuse together the classic, soft lullaby with the powerful and wailing pleads of the blues.
Raw emotion is voiced behind the famous lyrics, Que será, será, Whatever will be, will be, blending together a certain contentment with life along with a bitter anger over fate. This authentic and passionate tone has the potential to be a hit under the name of something other than its previous singers.
One thing’s for certain — the album will draw a wide audience just because of the renowned artists and songs she covers. The nostalgic memories conjured up by lyrics like, And when I go away / I know my heart can stay with my love, will give many fans a reason to listen to The Love EP.
But the disappointment still remains that although these songs might be a nice and heartfelt homage to some of Rae’s and the world’s favorite artists, the EP lacks the originality that would make it a truly worthwhile buy.
In the end, it’s a waste of Rae’s talent to devote a whole EP covering songs that have already topped the charts, rather than her own songs.
The classics are already classic.
How can even a talented artist like Rae overcome that?