Eighteen years later and Natalie Imbruglia is still struggling to shake off the lying-naked-on-the-floor ghost of Torn. If anything, the follow-up to 2009’s Come To Life sees the Australian pop songstress going through a period of creative drought.
Male is a covers album featuring songs that are made popular by well, no surprise here – male acts. Like it or not, covers and compilations are almost always, an indication of artistic impotence. And sadly, it would appear that Imbruglia has reached that dreadful juncture in her now numbered recording days.
That isn’t to say that Male is one big gimmick. There’s reason behind the album’s rhyme. In this scenario, it’s the juxtaposition of Imbruglia’s delicate voice against the masculine words and melodies of the tracks covered.
That sense of fragility works frictionlessly on numbers such as Daft Punk’s Instant Crush and Death Cab For Cutie’s I Will Follow You Into The Dark. But elsewhere, that feminine treatment is stretched too thin. This is most evident on Damien Rice’s Cannonball. Imbruglia fails to match Rice’s aching melancholy on the folk rock standard.
That ineptitude isn’t a reflection of Imbruglia’s vocal limitations. What it is, though, is an indication of the shortage of artistry in the Sydney native’s fifth studio endeavour.
When Imbruglia does take the rein, it sounds like a horrendous massacre. The country influence – complete with a banjo solo – on The Cure’s Friday I’m In Love is what a pop career suicide would sound like. As a whole, Male is an insubstantial and quite frankly, pathetic excuse to prolong a 90s pop sensation’s glory just a little while longer.