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Cry Forever (Sony)

Criticising Amy Shark for unoriginality/jumping on the bandwagon of a sound that was already two years old when she arrived didn’t really matter at the time. It certainly didn’t hurt her.

She fashioned an even more palatable version of what the likes of Lorde (and in her heart, Blink 182) had done and found that young women in particular heard in her someone who spoke to them as much as spoke for them. The connection was real even if it wasn’t always clear if everything about Shark was equally so.

Objecting to Shark racking up ARIA and APRA wins for singles eked out of a long-released album and EP, or for being the most marketable front of a wave that was mostly made up of indie and electronic women whose radio/chart presence was sometimes in inverse proportion to both their quality and their presence in the music media, wasn’t really worth pursuing.

That run of trophies got up the noses of some people who inexplicably still care what awards say/mean when really, the public couldn’t give a toss. But, hey, she didn’t make any of the sales-conscious industry voters in both awards vote for her and not for whichever “cooler” artist you or I might prefer. And in any case the sales were solid, albeit on a reduced scale from when dominating artists actually sold hundreds of thousands not tens of thousands.

And finally, having a little whine about the collaborators in her corner in the past few years, from Joel Little (early Lorde collaborator) and M-Phazes (who put those Little-ish beats to her acoustic songs) to Jack Antanoff, from Travis Barker (who is here in spirit on the new songs Baby Steps and Lonely Still) to Ed Sheeran (who has contributed to the hit-in-the-making, Love Songs Ain’t For Us) is just, well, whining.

Whomever or whatever was involved in the lead-up, whatever style she was glomming on, she still has to sell this thing, she still has to make it feel like it’s her. And they all still need to come up with genuinely good songs.

The only thing that matters, the objection I think has to be lodged, about Amy Shark’s second album, is just how dull this all is. It’s mid-tempo, mid-emotions, mid-ambition, and mostly just plain middling.

It’s stuck in a singing style that might charitably be called restrained but really is contained. It doesn’t unleash the energy – or for that matter the rock heart nurtured for three decades – that she undoubtedly has, preferring to affect a level of meaningfulness in ballads and generic pop/rock songs-with-mild-beats that dominate the baker’s dozen songlist.

Its mid-album highlight is that Sheeran co-write, an anonymously attractively piece of pop/country that could so easily slip onto a Keith Urban album that his actual appearance in the song elicits something like sympathy. Not for her, but for him given the insults sometimes hurled at him for being about as real as his hair roots. I mean, it’s all true, but that’s what they hire him for and he nails that nebulousness. So, respect, I guess.

Let’s be frank though, if the level of your ambition is a moment in the manner of K. Urban, you’ve given up. Or maybe should.

The exception to many of these criticisms is the raw, sometimes brutal personal story of the album’s final track, titled Amy Shark (which if you are super late to the party is the name Amy Billings took on after an earlier spell, when single, as Amy Cushway), and presented with little adornment around its guitar and piano base.

It’s not a great song but it has the very real benefit of getting out of the way of lyrics which don’t just come from some really bruised part of her psyche and life story, they actually follow through on the truthfulness promised but clumsily delivered in earlier songs such as All The Lies About Me.

That’s not really anywhere near enough for a record is it? Actually, yes, it is. Near enough is the whole album, and near enough has been good enough for Amy Shark so far, so why want more now?


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