Three years after bursting onto the electro-pop scene as a younger contender for the heir to Grace Jones' attitude-laden diva throne, Anglo-Ghanian singer/songwriter Anita Blay, aka Cocknbullkid, finally gets the chance to put her money where her mouth is with her debut album, Adulthood. However, the lengthy gap since her 2009 Querelle EP appears to have inspired something of a rethink, as not only has the "the" been removed from her moniker, but her edgy art-pop nature and feisty persona have also been replaced in favor of a more mainstream-chasing sound that recalls the confessional pop of Lily Allen, the girl band soul of early Sugababes, and at times, the musical theatrics of Glee. But produced by Sneaker Pimps' Liam Howe, and co-written with the likes of All Saints' Shaznay Lewis, Peter Bjorn and John's Peter Morén, and Metronomy's Joseph Mount, its 12 tracks are still just as interesting as her previous indie-centric offerings. Blay reveals a childlike vulnerability on the opening lo-fi title track, which fuses twinkling music boxes with languid grooves, sweetly sung melodies, and an enchanting campfire singalong finale, while the Motown-tinged barroom rock of "I Deserve It" and the glitzy show tune-inspired title track showcase an impressive amount of self-awareness, but her lyrics aren't the only thing that's mellowed. "Hold on to Your Misery" is a celebration of negativity that blends Morcheeba-esque verses with the kind of sugary pop chorus that makes Steps sound like Radiohead, the sweeping orchestral arrangements of "Bellyache" and the gospel-fused "Yellow" sound like the kind of showstopping finales you'd find in a West End production, and "The Hoarder" is an infectious slice of '60s girl group doo wop pop worthy of joining the upper reaches of the Winehouse-alike league. There are still glimpses of her more avant-garde leanings such as the Neptunes-does-lounge pop of "Mexico," the chugging post-punk basslines and distorted guitar twangs of the claustrophobic "One Eye Closed," and the fuzzy synths, ethereal trance, and spacious rhythms of the Kate Bush-inspired "Dumb." But Adulthood's pessimistic tales of twenty-something urban life work far better when surrounded by a contrastingly optimistic production. Cocknbullkid has been all but ignored by the various Sound of 2011 polls, but her debut is a vibrant and joyous record that deserves to find as big an audience as the likes of Clare Maguire and Jessie J.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien