My Best – Rebecca Ferguson
43:50 min • Syco / RCA • November 29, 2013
Nick Smith reviews
It’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since Rebecca Ferguson shocked me with her soulful and rather credible debut, almost unheard of from a talent show runner-up. With much to prove, the Liverpudlian – whose voice packs the left-field darkness of Shara Nelson, with shades of Macy Gray and all the soul of Aretha Franklin – it’s wonderful to hear that her second album Freedom is as sincere and endearing, if with a more cathartic arc.
Bounding into proceedings is the sprightly, two-step drum laden, bittersweet anthem ‘I Hope’, where her smooth, silky vocal bolts over the magnificent piano-driven, gospel backdrop, woeful about a past love that has taken her for granted. ‘Fake Smile’ adds more meat to these bones and the sombre ballad has some charming, yet visceral lyrical touches delivered sincerely,
He took the piss, because I let him.
I was good while I was fun!
This melancholy intensifies with ‘Bridges’, a touching, scant, piano-led duet with John Legend with tinges of ‘Broken Strings’ by Nelly Furtado and James Morrison, but we learn that our protagonist has decided to call it a day and move on and burn the toxic bridges,
You’re not coming home,
I watch these bridges burn on my own –
There is a fantastic sense of empowerment on the horizon with the breath-taking ’80s synth and urgency of ‘My Best’. Opening with a brisk guitar strum echoing the wonder of Madonna’s ‘Open Your Heart’, the song soars into a glorious chorus with some brilliant uplifting backing vocals,
You’re at your best,
When there’s nothing else left –
This almost tribal anthem builds into an empowering middle-eight with TMS production all over this exuberant track. This song is going to be huge.
At the heart of this record is a rather therapeutic journey with themes of melancholy, acceptance and empowerment. There is a wonderful sense of healing on the powerful soul of ‘All That I’ve Got’, and ‘Hanging On’ is a striking ode to letting go. The experimental sonic and vocal arrangement of ‘My Freedom’ is rather refreshing and showcases Ferguson’s sometimes quirky approach, as we heard in the last few bars of the sublime ‘Shoulder To Shoulder’ from her previous album.
‘I Choose You’ would suggest a beautiful tribute to her children and ‘Wonderful World’ seems to channel the acoustic Alanis Morissette, but is the perfect antithesis to her vitriol and cynicism with an honest optimism,
I laugh when they knock me,
Cos I know the truth,
Not everyone will love me,
But I’m not scared to try –
and the opening bars of the slow-burner ‘We’ll Be Fine’ are more than reminiscent of Whitney Houston’s ‘It’s Not Right, But It’s Ok’.
The album closer is the sparse, highly-charged ballad, ‘Freedom’, where Ferguson sounds on the verge of tears, but reigns it back beautifully with a soaring chorus. The song’s a capella denouement strips away all the bravado, making for a somewhat abrupt, yet knowing end. We get the impression that this songbird is finally at peace.
In a time, where the shock-tactics of Miley Cyrus are touted as female empowerment, women young and old would do very well to take this tremendous, genuine and emotional journey with Ferguson. Freedom is an absolute marvel.