Rebecca Ferguson

Heaven

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The debut from 2010 X-Factor runner-up Rebecca Ferguson, 2011's Heaven is a stylish, expertly produced contemporary R&B and pop album that showcases Ferguson's emotive, soulful voice. Working with longtime Adele collaborator Eg White, as well as a handful of other name producer/songwriters, Ferguson delivers a bevy of emotionally resonant and melodically infectious cuts perfectly suited to her dynamic talent. These are literate, thoughtful songs that balance a kind of singer/songwriter approach with a more club- and dance-oriented aesthetic. In that sense, songs like the opening anthem "Nothing's Real but Love," and the devastating ballad "Shoulder to Shoulder" are roiling, gut-wrenching cuts that bring to mind the earthy folk-soul of such similarly inclined contemporaries as Amos Lee and, of course Adele. Elsewhere, Ferguson delves into a '60s-/'70s-influenced retro pop-soul vibe on the Brill Building-influenced "Glitter and Gold," and the Motown-sounding "Fairytale (Let Me Live My Life This Way)." And while the old-school soul sound certainly informs much of what Ferguson offers here, it is often filtered through a kind of '90s R&B and club music approach that brings to mind the Brand New Heavies as much as it does Aretha Franklin. To these ends, the latter half of Heaven is an incredibly strong listen, featuring the breezy "Run Free," the addictive "Diamond to Stone," and the house music-infused "Too Good to Lose."

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