With the likelihood of a new Amy Winehouse record surfacing any time soon decreasing by the minute, the long list of divas hoping to fill the beehive-haired gap appears to be increasing with the same speed. Joining Paloma Faith, V.V. Brown, and Eliza Doolittle on the retro soul-pop roll call is 21-old South Londoner Roxanne Tataei, aka Rox, who, having recently covered for the troubled star during her scheduled festival performances with Mark Ronson, has perhaps more right to take that mantle than any. Her debut album, Memoirs, does undeniably contain the kind of toe-tapping Northern soul stompers that made Back to Black such a colossal success, including the shuffling Hammond organ-driven opener "No Going Back," the '60s doo wop pastiche "I Don't Believe," and the Motown-tinged ballad "Do As I Say." But thanks to its genre-hopping production from Commissioner Gordon (Mary J.Blige) and Al Shux (Lupe Fiasco, Jay-Z), Memoirs is far from the Winehouse tribute record its opening tracks suggest, at times recalling the late-'90s nu-soul of Lauryn Hill (the gospel-fused "Breakfast in Bed") and the laid-back jazz-pop of Corinne Bailey Rae (the gorgeously understated, acoustic-driven "Forever Always Wishing"), while also convincingly tackling lover's rock reggae on "Rocksteady," infectious hip-pop on "My Baby Left Me," and trip-hop on "Page Unfolds." Inevitably, Rox's tender years mean she hasn't quite experienced the hardships that inspired her obvious influences' greatest works, with most of Memoirs centering around the woes of her teenage love life, while the occasional lapses into screechy, Mariah Carey-esque territory, particularly on the stripped-back "Heart Ran Dry," are something she'll have to iron out if she wants to avoid the histrionic X-Factor contestant label. But whereas some of her contemporaries' debuts felt like contrived efforts to jump on the vintage soul bandwagon, Memoirs feels like the real deal, and suggests Rox has the potential to step out of her fellow Brit school graduate's shadow next time round.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien