By Josh Schonfeld
After finishing in 6th place on “The X Factor” in her native UK, Ella Henderson gets the last laugh, as her debut album soared to the top of the British charts and is set to make a splash across the pond this week. Chapter One is filled with risky melodies and intense vocal acrobatics that seem impossible for a typical 19 year-old to perform. Fortunately for us, Henderson is no typical 19 year-old. Effortlessly combining the vocals of Adele with the commercial pop sound of Katy Perry, Henderson proves that she is a force to be reckoned with.
The record opens with “Ghost,” the summer smash that topped the charts in Britain and soon to reach the top ten here in America. While the verses and chorus are at war with each other and seem to be two songs haphazardly put together, the chorus shines through, as Henderson’s vocals soar into pop history with her adlibs and runs. As the album progresses, the tracks simply get better and better. From the stomp-clap bridge of “Empire” to the steam-infused sounds of “Glow,” from the cracking vocals on “Yours” to the soulful “Mirror Man,” Chapter One’s first five tracks hold enough creativity and talent for an entire Grammy-winning album by a veteran artists, let alone a debut album from a teenager.
One criticism is her strained vocals on nearly every track. Perhaps to show her age, Henderson’s voice cracks like a boy going through puberty every time she goes for a high note or wishes to be sensual. While it works on the loving ballad, “Yours,” it is unnecessary and out of place on the uptempos that are supposed to show off her strong voice. Unfortunately, it seems that Henderson has made this her signature technique and will continue to “baa” for the foreseeable future.
Henderson’s elegance and sophistication comes out in each of her tracks, backed by either a piano or orchestral strings. There is no need for autotune or processing, any heavy synths or drum machines to hide any flaws as Henderson soars above the clouds with her stellar vocals. Chapter One sets the new year off right and also sets Henderson up for a monstrous career worldwide for years to come.