Review Summary: Liked the singles? This probably isn't for you.
What a weird album, given the context of "Heaven" being the first single. That track may have been a little mushy and flimsy at heart, but it was elevated into something special by its genuinely pained melody and its quasi-trip-hop, "Unfinished Sympathy"-aping production. It's a song where the virtues outweigh the vices so comprehensively that those vices become irrelevant. So why does the rest of Our Version of Events
dispense with those virtues entirely?
Disappointingly, Our Version of Events
, with the exceptions of "Heaven" and "Daddy", is as flimsy and mushy as they come. If anything about those singles appealed to you - their darkness, their dramatic sweep, their sleek '90s throwback production, their twinning of pop soul songwriting with dinner party dance breaks, basically anything
other than Sandé's voice - then you can rest assured that you won't find it in anything else on this album. The rest is syrupy, slow, and melodramatic, the kind of songs that could slot into An Evening With Barbara Streisand
and not feel out of place (although Alicia Keys at her dullest is probably a better reference point - she turns up on the dreary "Hope" to reinforce the link). To put her alongside another Brit Critic's Award winner, imagine if "Rolling in the Deep" had been the first track on 19
- that's the kind of chasm in sound and quality we're talking about here.
In fairness to Sandé and her producers, it's worth nothing that Our Version of Events
could be a lot more bland than it actually is. There's a splash of diversity in the ballads that dominate the album, with the strings from "Heaven" left intact on a few numbers, and the instrumentation varying between guitars, pianos, and soft electronics. This most basic of touches is enough to stop it being a completely plodding, classless affair. Sandé is an intriguing lyricist too, one with a storyteller's flair for balancing intentional vagueness with very specific minutiae; it's a balance that feels intimate and confessional, but allows room to fill in enough details from your own life to make it feel like it was written just for you. It's a trick the best songwriters have been using for decades, of course, but that shouldn't take the shine off the fact that Sandé does it very well, even if she occasionally overcooks it (the worst offender being "Clown").
Maybe the music's biggest failing, then, is that it really lets down her words. If you really force yourself to focus on what she's saying, then you could easily fall under Our Version
's spell - but with so many albums out there that do the same thing but better, why would you ever force yourself? Sandé does just about enough on here to show that she's worth caring about, but she's going to have to be a lot more smart and adventurous, and a lot less middle-of-the-road, before she'll be able to make people care. The sound she's settled into right now is doing her no favours at all.