Echoing the career path of a certain Ms. Cole, French pop idol Christophe Willem's musical journey appears to have come full circle, having been appointed as a judge on The X Factor just five years after winning Nouvelle Star himself. Perhaps conscious of the fact that he'll now have to practice what he preaches if his advice and criticism are to hold any weight, his third studio album, Prismophonic, has raised his game considerably. Featuring an array of commercial dance-pop's most established names (Richard X, Freemasons), its 12 tracks thankfully eschew the four-to-the-floor generic production that's become so ubiquitous of late in favor of a more subtle but still utterly infectious sound that falls somewhere between the glittery camp disco of Scissor Sisters and the melancholic synth pop of Will Young's recent chart-topper. With its filtered house beats and irresistible funky guitar licks, opener "Starlite" (previously recorded by U.K. X Factor winner Alexandra Burke) somehow manages to breathe new life into one of the most overused sample tricks in the book (Chaka Khan's "Ain't Nobody"); "Le Temps Qu'Il Reste" is a gorgeously swoonsome slice of trance-pop filled with warm layers of Deadmau5-esque synths; while previous collaborator Kylie Minogue (who appeared on 2009's Cafeine) lends a hand for a second time with the co-written slinky electro of "Pas Si Loin." The ballads are just as accomplished as the dancefloor-focused numbers, from the understated Darren Hayes-ish "Si Mes Larmes Tombent," to the cascading piano-led closer "Falling," to the atmospheric '80s-tinged "Je Rejoins la Scene," all of which show that Willem can showcase his impressive falsetto without descending into the usual talent show-style melodramatics. Considering his new mentor role, Willem doesn't seem in too much of a hurry to leave his TV beginnings behind, but ironically, Prismophonic could serve as a master class in how to establish yourself as an artist in your own right.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien