Kiesza

Sound of a Woman

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On her full-length debut Sound of a Woman, Kiesza tries to capitalize on the success of her '90s dance-reviving hit "Hideaway" and move beyond it at the same time, with mixed results. Savvily, the album begins with the single that started it all, and what a track it is: a sleek, sexy nod to '90s house, "Hideaway" remains catchy enough to be played on Top 40 radio without compromising any of its danceability. One of 2014's finest dance-pop tracks, "Hideaway" may still be Sound of a Woman's brightest highlight, but the album's other peaks could've been hits for Black Box or CeCe Peniston back in the day. On tracks like "No Enemiesz," "Giant in My Heart," "Over Myself," and "The Love," Kiesza and producers Rami Samir Afuni and Simen & Epsen revitalize the stark beats, pulsing keyboards, and soaring vocals that defined '90s dance with zero irony and lots of energy; strangely, however, several of these songs don't appear until Sound of a Woman is almost over. The Hideaway EP already suggested that Kiesza was broadening her horizons, a brave move for a new artist so closely associated with a particular sound. Then again, she began her career singing folky material, so she's already proven she's unafraid of change. She gives her '90s fondness a hip-hop bent with "Losin' My Mind," a low-slung track featuring Mick Jenkins and a gritty beat, and "Bad Thing," a collaboration with rapper Joey Bada$$. Elsewhere, she tackles ballads, some of which sparkle, like the dramatic title track and the delicate cover of Haddaway's booming hit "What Is Love?," which succeeds solely on Kiesza's vocal talents; others, such as the awkwardly conceived "Vietnam," drag down the album's momentum. While Sound of a Woman is slightly too long and unfocused, at its best it's a potent reminder of how much fun this sound was -- and is.

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