The Female Boss

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It’s never easy to leave a successful pop group in its prime. The trick of being a successful solo artist -- as the likes of Robbie Williams and Cheryl Cole have ably shown -- is to have bags of charisma, and most important of all, the songs. Sadly, the debut album from the former N-Dubz member Tulisa Contostavlos has neither. Despite being a popular judge during her first season of the U.K. version of The X Factor, the flawed and weak effort of The Female Boss will leave listeners disappointed. Tulisa attempts to define the album in bold and defiant terms with a wince-inducing spoken word intro before slamming into the trance stylings of chart-topping single “Young.” The catchy, hedonistic Barrington Levy-sampling “Live It Up” follows and is her most urban pop-sounding track to date. Celebrated U.K. rappers the Nines and Wiley make guest appearances on the tracks “British Swag” and “Visa,” respectively, but neither can save these ill-judged and messy tracks. The album veers from generic trance-pop to R&B-pop balladry, but neither style convinces here, as Tulisa doesn't have the conviction to do both properly. Despite working with sought-after producers and songwriters, the likes of Diane Warren and the Dream don’t deliver. “Counterfeit,” co-penned with Warren, is a ham-fisted metaphor for failed love, and the Dream-produced “Skeletons” shows off her soft and vulnerable side but is not strong or memorable enough to merit repeat listens. Rather, it is the ‘80s/freestyle-influenced “I’m Ready” that provides uplifting respite, and it's the first time on the record that you feel that she is actually enjoying herself. As the album closes with two more songs about broken hearts and painful love, you can’t help but feel that this was an opportunity missed as the third single “The Sight of You” shows glimpses of Tulisa’s talent in creating heartfelt melodies and relatable lyrics, but the feeling is far too fleeting and insufficient, resulting in a lamentable debut all round.

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