Growing up is hard enough without doing it in front of millions of people. For Charlotte Church, who started performing music at just eleven years old, growing up in the spotlight was incredibly hard. The Welsh-born classical singer started off her career being known for her powerful soprano voice, and released four albums of classical music before even turning 19. When you listen to Church’s operatic music, it’s easy to forget that she was just a young girl when she recorded all of it, but Church decided in 2005 that she wanted to break away from her classical beginnings, and take her music career on a new journey.
Released in 2005, Tissues and Issues is Church’s first pop album, and is also the first disc in her career that features songs co-written by Church herself. She recruits a handful of pop music producers to help her (including Guy Chambers, who has worked with Robbie Williams), but the album is mostly a mixed bag with more misses than hits.
The album begins with Call My Name and from the opening lyrics, you can automatically tell that this track is a big departure from Church’s classical songs. “I like the sound of your belt dropping”, sings Church in a seductive voice, over a heavily-produced pop beat. Unfortunately, the song sounds terribly dated- the music sounds like something from the late 80’s and not in a good, nostalgic way- it just sounds like this was the best musical preset they could find in the leftover pop music factory. Church’s delivery isn’t much better either- she doesn’t sound entirely convincing as she sings the provocative lyrics, seeming more like a little girl trying on her mommy’s makeup- it just feels like she’s playing dress-up, rather than being genuinely sexy.
Hand claps introduce Crazy Chick, another upbeat track that sounds similar to the track before it. I was open to Church recording pop music, but I suppose I was hoping to still hear some of her impressive vocals on the songs That doesn’t seem to be happening on the album so far- these songs are mostly focused on the overpowering production and cheesy backing music (this one has “jazzy” horns in the background, which are actually just loud and annoying), and Church sings the track like any typical pop star would, not like an artist with a four-octave range.
A track that’s actually enjoyable finally appears with the midtempo ballad, Show A Little Faith. The production is immediately stripped back, and the garish backing music is replaced with a unassuming drum loop and guitar. The mellow sound works well, and leaves room for Church to do some actual singing, rather than just phoning in another performance. The chorus is extremely catchy (“It’s a temporary breakdown/When there’s nothing left to say/Show a little faith now’/Cause everything is gonna be okay”) and I remember this being one of the few songs on the album I listened to repeatedly. Another ballad follows with Finding My Own Way, and it’s clear that Church does much better on mid-tempo ballads than she does on dance/pop tracks. This song isn’t very interesting musically, but at the very least, there’s plenty of moments where you can actually hear Church’s voice over the backing music. She’s still got the vocal talent that she had as a child, and it’s nice to hear her tackle some of the high notes on this song.
Easy To Forget is another mid-tempo track, this time with an R&B/Latin sound which works surprisingly well. Fool No More is a soulful ballad, and again, the change in musical direction is interesting, but Church handles it well, especially during the powerful chorus. Again, it’s apparent that the less production used, the better the song turns out, and I’m not sure why Church and her production team didn’t realize that themselves. Usually, you get overproduced pop music when the artist can’t sing and needs backing music to distract from that- but Charlotte Church can sing, and her album should’ve focused on her vocal strength more than anything else.
The rest of the album, however, is pretty much a failure. Let’s Be Alone is plagued- once again- by horrendous production and awful music. I can’t describe it any better by saying that it just sounds like really, really bad Euro-pop music. The ballad Easy Way Out is nice enough, but verges on being a bit too corny during the choruses, and I usually lose interest with it after the second verse. Meanwhile, the piano-based Moodswings (To Come At Me Like That) is a bit better- the tempo is slowed down some and the production is reigned in a bit, at least during the verses- but the choruses are still too busy and the song still sounds like bad 90’s pop.
Thankfully, a handful of songs lift the album up a bit. Casualty Of Love is a gorgeous ballad, again, due to the bare production (this time, only composed of spanish guitar), but Church’s vocals are also at their best here. The high notes she hits in the choruses give me chills, and this is more of what I imagined when I heard Church would be releasing an album of mainstream music. Her tone is sexy and seductive and even when the song picks up and turns into an upbeat tango, she still manages to stay afloat over the production and the track is absolute highlight. My favourite song on the album is the emotional ballad, Even God. Funnily enough, the song is written by Boy George, and I will admit the lyrics are my favourite part of the song (“Even God can’t change the past/No matter how many tears I’ve cried/Yes, I thought this love would last/Who am I to question why?/Who am I?”), though Church’s heartfelt vocals also play a big part in what makes the song so good.
The disc ends on a pleasant note with another ballad, Confessional Song. I tend not to enjoy albums that are too ballad-heavy, but I’ll make a concession in this case- Church does her best on ballads, and I’d much rather this album have been all ballads rather than the crappy pop songs that were littered throughout. Anyway, the best part of this particular song is Church’s soft vocals in the verses, and she sounds absolutely beautiful throughout the entire track.
While I applaud Charlotte Church for taking her musical career into her own hands by singing songs she wants to sing and co-writing her own music, I have to say that I miss her classical albums. Tissues and Issues could’ve been a successful pop debut for her, but thanks to the handful of producers, the result is a messy album that goes all over the place without making much of a statement, other than Church’s musical niche is obviously not in the pop world.
1. Call My Name
2. Crazy Chick
4. Show A Little Faith
5. Finding My Own Way
6. Let’s Be Alone
7. Easy To Forget
8. Fool No More
9. Easy Way Out
10. Casualty OF Love
11. Even God
12. Confessional Song