We shouldn't seek out to champion people who don't want to champion themselves.
But I can't help it! This week, roving around Rome with my ipod on shuffle, I have fallen back in love with Natalie Imbruglia. Again!
Nat was originally a soapie star in Australia. That should normally preclude her from being someone worth considering as substantial, or for someone to go into bat for. But no. She seemed to rather effortlessly overcome her past almost instantly.
Her first single was a cover version. By technical standards not a recommended way to go about kicking off a music career. But when said cover version is the brilliant Torn you have to give in.
Nat's first album was a monster. A huge international phenomenon. Left of The Middle was mostly co-written by Nat, who, arrived on the music scene years after her last episodes of Neighbours had been screened in the UK or Australia, making it seem like a logical, thoughtful career transition, rather than simply jumping on the bandwagon. Natalie also resisted the temptation to go into a dance-pop direction, instead producing something that at least seemed indie inspired, even when it could sometimes verge on the middle of the road rather than the left to the middle.
Although from 1997 through to 1999 the singles from Left of the Middle and that beautiful face seemed to be EVERYWHERE, Natalie took her time following up her first album, and when she eventually did, some four years later with White Lilies Island, we got more of the same earthy, soulful pop rock that she had done the first time around, but without the bubbles and the bite. Her slow working ethic impacted on the success of her album a little, as did the more midtempo feel of the album. The beginnings of her squandering her own efforts seemed to set in place. That said, That Day and Wrong Impression received some deserved airplay, but a better idea of what could be found on the sophomore album was Beauty On The Fire. Nice, atmospheric, even if it was nowhere near as good as her first album material, like Smoke.
The quality of the material was sufficient to keep her stocks high, if not at the same stratospheric level that she burst onto the music scene with.
Her seemingly enviable relationship with Daniel Johns, her natural beauty, and that built in element of cool which she seemed to just naturally exude all contributed to a very warm reception another FOUR years later (detect the pattern?) to Shiver definitely her greatest single to date (okay, her greatest song to date), but the reception to the album, which was yet more restrained than her second album was equally cooler.
Whilst Shiver reinvigorated Natalie on the airwaves, she never capatalised on it again. The material on Counting Down the Days, the parent album just didn't have anything as lush, atmospheric and rivetting as its lead single. Natalie seemed to resume her career as a social scene IT girl, and even the eventual release of her greatest hits album, with the shiny, effervescent Glorious seemed a little like an afterthought, even if it came too prematurely, after all, she had only made three albums, albeit over 12 years.
Oh but wait. Another four years after Counting Down The DaysNat came back with Come to Life; newly seperated from Johns (they had been my celebrity touch stone couple :( ), and back intoa new pop world and market that she hadn't had success in for years. The album's commercial failure belies some quite good tracks, but one gets the sense that Natalie never really kept up her end of the bargain; with so much goodwill, she seemed to give up on the fight from the outset with her low output in a fast moving world of music, and that's a shame, because, is she herself was fighting the fight, imagine the potential of the songs she might still be recording now after those that she has already delivered.
Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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