Clare Maguire

Light After Dark

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An artist like Clare Maguire was bound to find success in the U.K. music scene -- she looks like Katy Perry's evil twin, she's got the voice of Annie Lennox and Cher's lovechild, and she performs with the gusto of Florence Welch: needless to say, it would take only the least savvy producer to deny this girl a chance to win over an entire country. Ultimately, it was Fraser T. Smith who collaborated with Maguire, co-writing and producing 13 of the 14 tracks on Light After Dark, Maguire's debut. However, with all the cards in place for a grand slam debut album, Light After Dark falls short. Smith, the pop hitmaker behind Brit hip-hop stars Tinchy Stryder, Taio Cruz, and Adele, produces work here that's nowhere near as inspired as any of his biggest or most creative hits. The album is produced with an eye to market Maguire like a more mainstream Florence and the Machine record; however, the songwriting is often disillusioned and lifeless, and Maguire fails to use her voice to its potential, often relying on Katy Perry-esque full-throttle belting to convey emotion (something that comes naturally to Welch or Kate Bush. Light After Dark is a perfectly respectable showcase of hints of Maguire's potential. On tracks like "I Surrender," she conquers the lame production to release a sensual late-'90s pop recording that leaves the listener wondering what might have happened had this whole album moved in that direction. However, because Light After Dark tries so hard to keep up with the tricks of the trade in 2011, it loses any sense of originality that Maguire brings to the table, which, especially in the pop music scene, is the only way to stand out.

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