Music Reviews: A Camp In The Void, Or Fly Away Dua Lipa

September 6, 2021

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By BRUCE DENNILL

Kahn: A Noise In The Void

Jeremy Camp: The Answer

Dua Lipa: Dua Lipa

Yael: Fly Away

 

Kahn Morbee has always offered – over the course of a long career in a tough niche – something that is not terribly rock and roll but which has ensured a level of success not enjoyed by many rock and pop artists in South Africa: consistency. On A Noise In The Void, the singer-songwriter’s second solo album, he adds a concept angle about life and the human condition in the future, mostly communicated via spoken word tracks in the form of announcements or phone calls that outline a narrative about a futuristic world run by robots, in which humans are more part of the ecosystem than it’s creators and drivers. The songs themselves don’t play too much of a role in expanding that universe, but they’re uniformly well put together. Vacancy is sort of stripped-down Killers tune that is an immediate highlight, while Goodbye Annie’s instrumental strut recalls Seventies-era Elton John. There are a number of instrument sounds and arrangement touches that speak to the influence on Morbee of Eighties pop. Moment In The Sun, featuring vocalist Ede Myrrh, who was a contestant on The Voice South Africa, on which Morbee was a judge, is a quiet but absorbing offering. And the closing We Could Be Divine, a co-write with Karen Zoid, is gently confrontational over a brooding rhythm track. More consistency, then – nothing off the rails; just strong, thoughtful work.

 

Armed with a big rock voice and a consistent ear for a good hook, Jeremy Camp is a dependable bet when it comes to solid, unfussy CCM pop. None of those are particularly explosive adjectives and, as a whole, The Answer suffers from a dual similarity of the style in which the songs are written and the production used to frame them. It’s a challenge for every Christian artist to find a new angle from which to contribute meaningful lyrics – so much of the message all of them are compelled to share has been communicated dozens of times before – and this collection struggles to spike fresh interest in the content at its heart. Conversely, because of the intent behind the music – a heart for the worship of the God that both Camp and his audience (or most of them, certainly) believe in – there is much here that will provide comfort for listeners who aren’t too worried about being introduced to something markedly new. The title track, Storm, Carriers and the major sonic standout, Awake O Sleeper, are all strong options in that regard.

 

She’s an established force now, but when this eponymous debut was released, Dua Lipa faced, like every other pop artist, the prospect of unseating Ed Sheeran and Drake from their chart-topping ubiquity. The approach taken here is to throw everything at the problem to see what sticks. The reason that the younger singer-songwriter has leapt to such prominence is that almost everything did. There are 17 tracks here, all featuring lavish pop production and anchored by Lipa’s strong vocals – a hybrid comprising elements of the vocals of Sia, Rihanna and Lady Gaga, which is not a terrible combination if you want to fit in near the top of the mainstream charts. Lipa is also an attractive young woman, completing the package that seems to be the formula for success in contemporary popular music. And she does it while also showing off impressive musicality, being involved in the writing of all the songs, with Genesis, Blow Your Mind (Mwah) and New Love being some of the highlights.

 

Mezzo-soprano contemporary opera singer Yael Benjamin is an experienced live performer, and on her debut album, she carries across similar presence and technical prowess. On a handful of tunes, she is backed by the Soweto Spiritual Singers, and the extra scale and depth afforded by their voices, with Yael’s clear vocals out front, make for enjoyable listening. Love Is, originally a duet, is a highlight, particularly for fans of Bette Midler and similar singers. That style is arguably best suited to Benjamin’s voice and sound, and a composition from closer to home – Paradise Road (sung as a duet with Vicky Vilakazi), is another high point in the collection. The tracklist is, in some parts, a little hit and miss, with versions of Bon Jovi’s Bed Of Roses and Radiohead’s Creep not as strong as some other covers, while a take on the Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black and the nominal title track, One Day I’ll Fly Away (a hit for Randy Crawford) fare much better.

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