Today’s POP RESCUE is the 2004 debut album from Pop Idol winner, Michelle McManus – The Meaning Of Love.
This album was a difficult rescue – i’m generally against Pop Idol, but I had a curiosity about this album – simply because there were just so many copies of it sitting in the discount store. I wanted to find out whether it really was just SO bad, and what was wrong with it.
Now it’s time to find out….
First thing to note, is that ‘McManus’ doesn’t appear anywhere on this album. It’s simply named as by Michelle. Presumably the label behind it were after a new mono-named singing sensation like Kylie, Dannii, Billie, Madonna…
The video of her debut single, which opens this album, All This Time is a nauseating collection of Simon Cowell, clips from Pop Idol, and baby photos, over a somewhat dull track. It’s like an obituary montage to an Mis-teeq b-side. The song itself, is okay. It’s a bit paint-by-numbers Cowell ballad/ballast, complete with step-off-the-stool key change.
Title track The Meaning Of Love, and second single, which is pretty much where her career ended. It’s slow, not so different from All This Time. And again, bland song + key change.
Say It Isn’t So is another ballad, and one that seems to lay her sleepy vocals over the top of the theme to the flop BBC soap Eldorado.
Emotional is at least a bit more upbeat, complete with piano, up-tempo drums, and guitars. Vocally, it’s more interesting, but the lyrics are never far from the tracks that have already passed my ears.
When The World Is Not Enough is the first of three tracks co-written by Cathy Dennis. In theory, we’re in good hands here. Question is, I wonder how far the track is musically from where Cathy envisaged it? Again it’s a ballad, with a key change.
Too Fast Too Slow again uses all of the same instruments we’ve heard so far, but it is at least another up-tempo track. Vocally, Michelle is sounding a bit like Geri Halliwell here, and musically this could have been something from Natalie Imbruglia‘s debut album.
Cast The First Stone, yes, you’ve guessed it – is another ballad with a key change. But to it’s credit, it is delicate, with a pseudo-guitar and grows with a warmth.
Cathy Dennis returns with One Life, a ballad, nice enough lyrically, but just musically bland.
Tinkling piano and strings open Feeling Good – a fairly credible cover of the Anthony Newley 1965 track from musical The Roar Of The Greasepaint, The Smell Of The Crowd, and a track that sees Michelle’s vocals feel stronger. Perhaps she knew this song already?
Another ballad comes in the form of How Can Sorry Ever Mend A Broken Heart, which begs the question, how can another ballad take up another track?
Songwriter-extraordinare Diane Warren brings track Invincible, and lyrically it’s a stronger track, but again, we’re stuck in ballad town, this also applies to the Gary Barlow co-written track I’ll Never Know. Presumably singing about her dreams of dance music. More Than Anything is the final Cathy Dennis co-writer credit, and we’re still stuck.
Closing track Once In A Lifetime opens promisingly, and whilst it is the 14th consecutive ballad on this album, it feels a little more alive, and Michelle’s vocals sound stronger here.
The impressive thing about this album is the writing force behind it. It seems that whoever the Pop Idol winner was going to be that year, they were going to have some serious investment behind them. I’m curious of just how much of the winner’s album is already recorded, just waiting for the winner to be announced and then whisked away to lay down the lead vocal track.
Whilst the debut single hit #1, it’s follow-up stalled at #16, and album reached #3 in the UK chart, the buying public soon realised what they were buying and the album tumbled fast out of the charts, gathering ‘worst album’ accolades as it went.
Despite the harsh critics, Michelle’s vocals fare well, except, that her pitch would be more suited to some up-tempo pop or dance tracks, rather than endless nauseating dull-as-hell ballads that are stacked up one after the other on this 14 track album. I’m wondering whether she got bored recording this?
Where is Michelle McManus now?
She is now known as a TV presenter, occasionally actor, and a columnist. Her Pop Idol days are behind her, and I even think that she is thankful of that.
- POP RESCUE 2014 RATING: 1 / 5
- 2004 UK CHART POSITION: #3
- POP RESCUE COST: £1 (from a Poundland store).