The number of female singer-songwriters hailing from the UK during the last few years is exhaustive. Adele, Duffy, Ellie Goulding, Florence and the Machine, La Roux, Little Boots, Marina and the Dimaonds, VV Brown, and, recently, Jessie J have all been lavished with praise and marked as the Next Big Thing (on this blog and elsewhere). Their success in breaking out has varied; Florence Welch’s profile keeps rising while Victoria “Little Boots” Hesketh’s is practically non-existent.
So, what makes the newest member of this UK girl’s club, Clare Maguire, any different?
For the 23-year-old from Birmingham, it all comes down to her voice. Maguire powers her songs with a rich contralto; the closest comparisons are to Stevie Nicks and Ann Wilson. Not that her contemporaries aren’t gifted with similarly beautiful voices, but there’s a strong, unique character to Maguire’s voice that puts her in a different class.
On her debut album, Light After Dark, her voice is the main attraction; unfortunately, the album is often plagued by over-the-top productions that distract from it. The songs are reminiscent of the alternative dance pop mastered by artists like Annie Lennox and Imogen Heap. Heavy doses of orchestral strings and shimmering synths waft through the compositions, none of which linger for longer than four minutes.
For her singles, she has handed remix duties to electronic music luminaries. Rather than the classic “dance remix” that would usually befall such an artist, these producers have opted to strip away the excess of the originals and focus on Maguire’s voice. It’s similar to the rash of La Roux remixes that highlighted Elly Jackson’s melodies rather than Ben Langmaid’s tiny, metallic instrumentals. Breakage’s luvstep approved remix of “Ain’t Nobody” and Chase and Status’ harp-backed, garage take on “The Last Dance” are both stronger than their counterparts. In a sharp nod to this fact, Maguire has released official videos for both versions.
Along with Light After Dark, Maguire has collaborated with other UK notables. Again pairing up with Chase and Status, she carries the duo’s “Midnight Caller,” one of the more restrained songs on No More Idols. She also appears on Mike Skinner’s The Streets sign-off “Lock the Locks.” It remains to be seen whether or not she will be relegated to singing hooks, or if she can be paired with producers that don’t try to compete with her voice. It’s a battle they’re bound to lose. Either way, this is just the beginning from yet another example of the UK’s embarrassment of riches when it comes to singer-songwriters.