Kym Marsh

Standing Tall

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It takes a brave person to leave one of Britain's biggest pop groups at the peak of their success but that's exactly what Kym Marsh did at the end of 2001, just months after scoring a number one single and album with original TV pop stars Hear'Say. The fact that they faced a huge backlash before virtually imploding soon after her departure suggests it was a wise decision. Two years later, she returns with her debut solo album Standing Tall. Eschewing the plastic manufactured pop of her former band for a more acoustic pop sound, it's certainly a more mature effort, but it's unlikely to score points for originality. Lead single "Cry" is basically a remake of Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn," "Come on Over"'s breezy chorus is reminiscent of White on Blonde-era Texas, and "Shine on Me" sounds like mid-'90s Oasis. But while it's never going to set the world alight, its radio-friendly sunny disposition makes it hard to dislike. And it's to Marsh's credit that the gentle acoustic verses/guitar-pop chorus formula that dominates the majority of the album only begins to wear thin near the end of its overlong 15 tracks. Elsewhere, the bluesy feel of the title track recalls vintage Sheryl Crow; "I Think It's Gonna Rain Today," with its spoken word verses, is a slice of polished guitar-driven power pop, while "After Goodbye" is the kind of '80s power ballad that you just can't help but sing along to. Marsh is undoubtedly a talented vocalist but her stage school background is all too apparent and her tendency to veer into musical theater territory alongside the more rock-led moments sometimes grates. But few would have predicted she was capable of something as accomplished as this from her initial TV auditions. It'll be lucky to sell a tenth as Hear'Say's debut, but it's certainly ten times more appealing.

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