Disappearing from view is not exactly recommended in Marketing 101 when you’ve recently released an album and an accompanying book of wisdom/back stories/life advice behind songs such as Everyone’s Famous, which has lines like “Oh you think this is easy/That dreaming comes cheaply/Are you ready to dance with the devil and sell/Your soul and you think – well I might as well.”
Notably, noticeably, quiet in the wake of the Sony implosion that saw her great champion, Denis Handlin, take the long walk out - allegedly because of a toxic culture of abusive behaviour and exploitation - Delta Goodrem is missing out on promoting her book and album, Bridge Over Troubled Dreams, as well as the chance to stand up for some of those abused Sony staffers who had given a lot to help build her career.
She was far less reticent, though not necessarily clearer, this month in 2016 when her album Wings Of The Wild presented a version of Goodrem that was about taking control, owning all decisions and reclaiming her place in the industry and public consciousness.
Oddly enough though, a question asked at the end of this review may still be relevant.
Wings Of The Wild (Sony)
That this isn’t to be seen as just another album for Delta Goodrem is made pretty clear from the come-at-me-suckers tone of its opening song, Feline, and its overworked but personal metaphor.
Once upon a time – an entertainment career lifetime ago - the darling of the general media and a public not yet freed to unleash online, Goodrem declares that today she is the prey, not the hunter, and warns others like her that “it doesn’t matter what you do, they’ll be hunting after you, trap you like an animal”.
But, as any good self-help book or self-actualising record should do, Goodrem kicks against the pricks so that while “everywhere you turn, there’s another door that burns”, the naysayers should know “it doesn’t hurt me anymore”.
Indeed, to the kind of thumping tribal drums, chanted chorus hooks, “free form” vocal middle eight and deeper than you expect voice that all recall the modern mistress of self-actualisation Lady Gaga, Goodrem defies by “running to the fire”, which inevitably “turns me into the lion ... the fiercest feline in the wild”.
(Confusingly, the album cover pictures her with a tiger, presumably the second or third fiercest feline, but let’s not quibble at this point over big cat metaphors. That would be as confusing as her entirely serious and bizarrely misunderstood cover of The Darkness’ I Believe In A Thing Called Love.)
If there were any doubt on the message from an artist better known now as a judge on a TV talent show than for her own work, much later in the album, Goodrem adds that she is “not giving up”, knowing that if she had to do it again she would because “I know I've got the strength inside to always rise above”.
Ok, it’s hardly Joni Mitchell or even Missy Higgins, and lyrics remain a significant and hugely distracting failing of Goodrem’s: Dear Life offers “Time will change you, nothing lasts forever anymore, tomorrow’s all we’re living for” and does so with intended heavy meaning to its triteness.
However, it does serve as a reminder that as well as a dose of get that up ya, ya bastards, Wings Of The Wild is intended as yet another stepping stone to reclaiming the position she held with her 2003 debut, Innocent Eyes.
That is, a seriously talented singer/songwriter with fierce ambition, frightening levels of control for a teenager and a winning way with a ballad-with-uplifting-chorus. Someone, the marketers all agreed, who could be projected as the aspirational ideal.
To do this resurrection convincingly, to rebuild from a series of puzzling, panicky musical choices over the past decade, and a public presence defined more in the supermarket magazines than the charts, requires more than just the determination to resist though.
Wings Of The Wild then turns on whether Goodrem, even before she convinces us, knows why she is resisting and what it is she offers in exchange, beyond the Gaga redux in the meaningless strut of The River and the bombast of I’m Not Giving Up and Hold On.
Unlike Higgins - who began with a similar vague enough to be interpreted any way you wanted lyrical approach, but latterly has sought out the personal rather than the general - Goodrem is still more inclined to the universal and the declamatory. That applies to the music and production as much as the lyrics.
Pump up the strings, the soaring voice and the rise-rise-rise-up progression of Enough and we might just miss the fact the surprising inclusion of rapper Gizzle brings the only personal, albeit cliched, part of the process. Have us punching our fists in the air to the accompaniment of heavily processed drums in the kiss-off Encore, or clutching those fists to our hearts in the thanks-for-making-me Hold On, and it can feel very much like control.
Then, if you’ve got us hanging on to our hats after the piano-and-voice set up (“I used to stand up so tall, there’s only so much I can carry”) of Heavy, when things get, well, heavy, the straining at the very end of your range, if not your tether, is as transportive in its own ways as Only Human, a post-Mariah ballad which in truth doesn’t have the nerve to stay at close quarters.
But is it lack of nerve or lack of a reason?
Nearly 50 minutes of Wings Of The Wild and its “attention must be paid” sonics gets you no closer to an answer to the question of who is Delta Goodrem and what does she want to be, beyond successful?