Having divorced herself from the commercial demands of Island records and from the flop of second album Ten, Gabriella Cilmi uses a newfound musical freedom to express her youth in ‘The Sting’. Not that youth of ‘Sweet About Me’ but this, her actual youth: at 21, Cilmi has real concerns and a music palate to suit her twenty-something woes.
If ‘The Sting’, as album title and single release is worthy of reading into, this third album responds to the sexed up, teeny image of her past – and Cilmi has made no secret of her desire to rid herself of her pin up-hood. But, the bee’s still on the Aussie singer’s back, as ‘The Sting’ tell us, and despite every effort to evade said insect; Cilmi’s not having much luck. Such is the essence of ‘The Sting’, both metaphorical and for real. This is a formative work but a youthful work, full of the pangs and betrayals of love and love’s losses.
‘Why do bad things happen to good good people?’ she muses; elsewhere she tries ‘to pick up the pieces that we dropped’ – and on ‘Not Sorry’ we get a little bit closer to the issue: ‘You put a smile across my face then you tore it apart’ she drolly sings. This long, intense album is full of regret, a certain anger and a tendency to exhale emotions at a rate of knots. It’s all set to the windy accompaniment of classical strings and looping, inconsistent drum percussion – there’s a soulful, stripped feel to the place – it’s unpredictable in here, as it should be for Cilmi; who is finding her way in life and music.
What is lovely is how assured she is about this discomfort. ‘Not Sorry’, ‘Highway’ and ‘Every Memory’ take care of her discomfort with particular furore, they’re up-tempo moments acting as real-time hissy fits, but justified ones. Elsewhere, the raw, spirited vocals adopt an ambling, soulful Macy Gray-ish funk – and this storytelling on ‘Kill Ourselves’ and the dank ‘Deep Water’ carries in its’ heart the timeless ebbs and flows of youth, affected. With the aid of her past, Cilmi is a lucky twenty-something: one that can, and should, project her fragility.