Katherine Jenkins: model, TV personality, classical/pop crossover vocalist. That’s quite a rap sheet, basically the holy trinity of pretty people jobs. But as her seventh studio album, Believe, demonstrates, she has one hell of a voice. And that’s really all that matters, isn’t it?
Jenkins has been around for the better part of the decade, and she’s basically made her career by releasing virtually the same exact album every time out. That is, until now. Jenkins’ game is covers–old hymns, worship songs, with casual toe dips into pop music (her 2008 album Sacred Arias features a re-working of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, quite possibly the most over-covered tune in pop history). On Believe, Jenkins went with the “Fuck it–go all or go home” approach, releasing her most pop-oriented album to date, covering forgotten alt-rock balladeers Evanescence (“Bring Me to Life”), Meredith Wilson’s classic show tune “Til’ There Was You”, and Sarah McLachlan’s sweet-natured staple “Angel”, just to name a few.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Jenkins album without a worship song or five. The most listenable is “I Believe”, a nonetheless corny duet with Andrea Bocelli–unless you like your classical music as churchy as possible, the track probably won’t stay on your iTunes repeat, but Bocelli’s soaring tenor is a welcome contrast on an album of absorbing estrogen, uplifting the cliched sentiments of the lyrics into something quite majestic. Jenkins’ brushes with mainstream radio tracks are similarly hit or miss, but she’s most successful when she tries something new with an arrangement (something her unenthusiastic take of MacLachlan’s “Angel” strictly avoids). For its first half, “Bring Me to Life” is thrilling, replacing the original track’s riffy gusto with a tender, ambient ache, Jenkins’ voice hovering over monstrous strings. Then some modern rock drums kick in, ruining the song’s interesting makeover by succumbing to easy pop radio moves.
Like “Bring Me to Life”, Believe almost gets you there. At times, it’s a downright impressive display of vocal dexterity, and as an attempt at classical/pop crossover, it’s gets the job done, proving Jenkins has the skills to play in both leagues. But skills can only get you so far–too much of Believe is simply unimaginative, failing to inspire much belief whatsoever.
Ryan Reed – firstname.lastname@example.org[Rating: 2.5/5]