Thursday, May 18, 2023

Ana Popovic - Power

I really enjoyed the most recent album by Ana Popovic, 2018’s Like It On Top.  With a fair amount of collaboration from Keb’ Mo’, it was full of cool and modern soul grooves, and sharp lyrics about what a woman wants and expects from the world – and from men.
Unfortunately, Power doesn’t repeat that success, partly because it rarely lives up to its title. Sure, it has its moments, but often there’s a sense of gloss rather than substance.  Opening track ‘Rise Up!’ is a case in point, lightly funky with burbling bass and swirls of organ, and
Ana Popovic - more noise from that Strat would be welcome
Pic by Brian Rasic
Popovic singing sweetly over the top.  It’s airy like a soufflé, with a bridge nudging towards Nu-soul territory, which isn’t my happy place. A couple of guitar breaks inject a touch of grit into proceedings, but that’s about all they manage.
‘Luv’n Touch’ and ‘Recipe Is Romance’ even seem to veer into easy listening territory, which isn’t a crime in itself, but these examples don’t do it for me.  The former sounds like it would be a suitable theme song for some winsome romantic comedy, with floaty vocals from Popovic, though at least there’s a satisfying burst of energy late on, with guitar soloing and backing vocals rubbing up against each other.‘Recipe Is Romance’ is similarly too sweet to be wholesome, with jazzy guitar commentary, syrupy horns, and what sounds like a multi-tracked vocal by Popovic – this last a trick that’s adopted on a few tracks, and typifies the air of over-polished production in evidence.
‘Power Over Me’ has a bit more oomph, even if it’s still in the shiny soul zone.  Flares of horns add a bit of heat, there’s some edge in the guitar solo again, and a catchy chorus is delivered with conviction. ‘Queen Of The Pack’ also packs a bit of a punch, with a couple of biting wah-wah solos, horns pumping, and some rat-a-tat vocal delivery, notwithstanding more of that multi-tracking.  And ‘Strong Taste’ is entertaining, with a brisk, tripping shuffle of a rhythm, and Popovic getting sassy with her vocal.  The “dooh-do-do-do-dooh” backing vocals contribute to a lively jitterbugging feel, but it still feels like higher gears should have been explored.
‘Deep Down’ gets closer to the grooves of Like It On Top, riding a simple bass line and with a straightforward, assertive vocal.  But it gets repetitive towards the end, and eventually outstays its welcome.  ‘Ride It’ is a similar curate’s egg, bobbling along pleasantly on another nifty groove, with some woozy horn remarks and stinging guitar licks, while Popovic proclaims that “We’re gonna ride it, ride it till the wheels fall off,” though without any real sense of exhilaration.
‘Flicker’N’Flame’ though, provides a belated moment of serious grit and drive, with some stomping drums and bass, and Popovic getting good and riled up vocally, insisting “Need you to work your nasty on me” and “Cover my mouth as I scream in ecstasy”.  Ooh er, missus. Then she lets rip with some squealing guitar to close, though it could do with being whacked higher up in the mix.
That kind of agitation and passion is exactly the kind of vibe Power could do with more of. Coming to the recording of this album on the back of treatment for breast cancer, Ana Popovic had a story to tell, but Power doesn’t feel like a deeply emotional album – not to this listener at least.  A bit more of Ana Popovic telling it like is, with less backing vocal sheen and more guitar torque, might have been more persuasive.
Power is out now and can be ordered here.

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