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Heart Review

by Mariano Prunes

Elisa is a curious phenomenon, a teenage sensation who evolved naturally into a mature performer and achieved major success in Italy and other parts of Europe purely on the grounds of her endearing personality and considerable talents as a singer and songwriter -- never stooping to the sadly common trappings of sexy photo shoots, alluring dresses, or tabloid scandals that many young female performers cannot seem to avoid. She has also maintained remarkable consistency in her creative vision and independence. Among other things, this has allowed her to take five years between her last two studio albums, 2005's Pearl Days and Heart, released in late 2009, a month after the birth of her first child. In the meantime, a few singles and collaborations, as well as her first compilation, a live album, and a first U.S. release, have kept her commercial appeal as strong as ever. Even if it was produced by Elisa and Andrea Rigonat, her partner in life and music (other Elisa albums feature big names such as Glen Ballard or Howie B at the helm), Heart is by no means a domestic or even acoustic album. Rather, it logically continues the line of her previous work, emotional and bombastic, with the bulk of the material sung in English and inspired by contemporary alt-rock and electronica, plus a couple of songs in Italian destined to be smash singles in her native country, such as "Ti Vorrei Sollevare," with Giuliano Sangiorgi from Negramaro. Heart's other's duet is "Forgiveness," with Antony Hegarty from Antony and the Johnsons (the second Antony collaboration with an Italian artist, after Eduardo Bennato). The international credentials of Heart are completed by a cover of Tears for Fears' "Mad World," of Donnie Darko fame, as well as by the presence of orchestra director Audrey Riley (Smashing Pumpkins, Muse, Coldplay) and sound engineer David Frazer (Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin). The problem with Heart, however, remains the same as with most of Elisa's work: there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, but no song is particularly memorable -- with the possible exception of "This Knot" -- or distinctive enough to set her apart from many other mainstream rock female acts. In sum, Heart is another strong release by Elisa's standards, one that may leave neutrals indifferent but that her fans will certainly love, as they quickly proved after sales reached multiple platinum levels in a few weeks.

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