The following review was rejected by some editors at Best Fit, so I’m posting it here instead.
Being stuck inside of major label pop record confines can be frustrating, both for artist and listener – especially when it’s obvious to the latter that the former has so much more to offer than what’s on record. With Ella Eyre’s debut, Feline, this is certainly the case.
The UK rising star clearly wants to make it as a pop star, as witnessed by fantastic guest turns on Bastille’s version of “No Scrubs,” Rudimental’s “Waiting All Night”, and DJ Fresh’s “Gravity” (which, curiously, is included in this set).
Problem is, it seems Virgin wants to pigeonhole Eyre as an pop star and nothing more. Much of Feline is milquetoast EDM produced for the masses without much care for creativity. Which is unfortunate, given the team of songwriting and producers in the liners, including Wayne Hector, Ilya Salmanzadeh and Paul Berry.
Most of the songwriting here is good, not great. Synth stabs and processed drums paint most of the arrangements here. As a result, the first four tracks bleed together, and not even a strong personality like Eyre can make these compositions interesting. They’ll play well in clubs, sure, but so what? Even when horn-driven chorus of “Together” or the piano flourishes of “Worry About Me” can salvage the sheer blandness of it all.
Interestingly, the lyrics are the bright stop. The album discusses relatable topics like philandering men, uneven love and empowerment, but largely does so in a mainstream fashion: ” About time the bird flies/ About time that I try” is cringe-worthy and the driving/racing metaphor used in “Two” regarding a failed relationship is awkward at best.
That said, for every bland dull line (of which there are many), there’s a diamond in the rough to be found. “You know I’ve worked so hard to give you all that you need/ And from the start you never gave a shit about me” and “This is a bad idea/ It’s the fuck-up of the year” are effective in their directness, and demonstrates that Ella Eyre is captivating despite the claustrophobic production around her.
But perhaps the best line comes from the album’s best song, “Comeback”. Here, Ella Eyre offers advice for every woman who’s been fucked over (literally and figuratively) by cheating men: “We’ve all been played, we all get hurt /Just take the pain and let that motherfucker burn”. It’s as silly as it great, and gives Eyre some room to express her own identity. It’s just too bad she wasn’t given more.