Review Summary: The sophomore album by Anggun. A major departure from Snow on the Sahara, but a great listen nevertheless.
As a follow-up to her phenomenal debut, Snow on the Sahara, Chrysalis may come off as a bit disappointing as it is a major departure. Gone are all the ethno influences, the poetic lyrics and the sense of wonder as this time around Anggun gets personal and takes the front seat as the co-writer to every track. The album also features a much simpler production, with little actual instruments used - everything else is left to computer programming.
The opening track (also the first single),"Still Reminds Me", is quite a masterpiece of its own which finds Anggun once again digging her R&B side. This is Anggun shedding her heart out, moaning over the loss of a former lover. Easily a standout and (if given the chance, wink wink) could have really been a classic post-breakup anthem.
She also takes part on social-awareness in songs like "Tears of Sorrow" ("Set a wider gap between us/We only live for our own gain, it seems/What's mine is mine/What's yours is yours") and "How The World..." ("I've witnessed joy/I've witnessed misery/I have seen richness/I've seen poverty") - pretty much the only worldbeat-infused track here.
"Breathing", much in vein with "Still Reminds Me", is Anggun at her most heart-wrenching moment, singing "Breathing far away from you/And every second feels like thousands more without you" while "Want You to Want Me" is a homage to a crazed fan ("You’re on the spotlight far from my touch/But I can wait here forever.")
The title track probably best describes her growth as a woman, in which she playfully sings "Fine as white dove/I'll do anything for the one I love/To get that one kiss/I'll wait like a chrysalis” and "[Be]Cause I know the way to break a heart/The way to tell a lie/Like you do" - her most clever lyrics to date.
Certainly, like a chrysalis, there's also a part when the transformation gets rough and this shows in the second half on the album. It somewhat fails to maintain consistency -while not being completely dour- beginning with the hard-rocking "Non Angelical" to the "My Sensual Mind" follow-up, "Comme un privilege". All these tracks sound to serve as slowburners to the album's early upbeat numbers. It closes with a short ballad "Broken Dream", which again finds Anggun lamenting over a love loss. While Anggun indeed has proven her artistic credibility, on this album she is yet to live up to the very promising and very impressive Snow on the Sahara. Is it a bad thing? Not at all, as here we actually get to hear more of what the singer has to say, instead of "the ethereal Asian girl" image on the Sahara album. Give her a credit for that, and listen closely.
(PS: Do check out this album's French version, Désirs contraires, as it actually does a better job with the consistency. For non-French speakers, don't be let down by the language barrier, as the French version features 2 great tracks not available on the English version, "Marcher sur la mer" and "Brume". It is to be noted that, due to contracts, each of Anggun's studio albums comes out in French and English.)