Malika Ayane's eponymous debut album is a classy affair, one meticulously designed to introduce her to the Italian pop music scene. A classically trained vocalist, Ayane was discovered by Caterina Caselli, a famous '60s pop star-turned-talent scout. Caselli spared no effort in surrounding her latest find with an A-list of collaborators, securing tailor-made songs written specifically for Ayane by big names such as Paolo Conte, Giuliano Sangiorgi (from Negramaro), and hot new songwriter Pacifico. The latter also sings in the single "Sospesa," the Italian version of "Soul Weaver," the song that introduced Ayane to Italian audiences when it was featured in a series of TV spots. Both songs are included in the album; in fact, almost half the songs are sung in English, denoting the album's obvious aim: to turn Ayane into an international, or at least European, star. She certainly seems to have the makings for the role, with a sensual voice that sounds equally comfortable -- and attractively exotic, as if from a sophisticated foreigner - in both languages, and a stylish repertoire, customized for a mainstream FM audience, but never dull or bland. Such hybridism, however, is chiefly responsible for this record's only fault: a certain lack of character, as Ayane is still in need of finding her own musical identity. In this respect, there is a telling difference between the rather neutral texts in English (written by Italian professional songwriters!), and the songs in Italian, the latter of which tend to have more refined lyrics. The pick of the crop goes to "Come Foglie," the number Ayane performed at the 2009 San Remo Festival in a duet with Italian song legend Gino Paoli. The song was later included in the Deluxe Edition of Malika Ayane, which appeared half-a-year after the initial release, and for all intents and purposes, has replaced it as the standard version of this CD. Fans of Sade, Norah Jones, or most particularly, Feist, to whom Ayane's singing bears an uncanny resemblance in the hit "Feeling Better," will find much to like in this lush album, but its follow-up, the more assured Grovigli, is even finer.
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AllMusic Review by Mariano Prunes