Karl Puschmann is an entertainment writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Album review: Aaradhna, Brown Girl

Aaradhna's new album Brown Girl is a confessional, highly personal album.
Aaradhna's new album Brown Girl is a confessional, highly personal album.

Aaradhna's been through a lot and on Brown Girl she's intent on telling you all about it.

It's a confessional, highly personal album, and the first release wasn't a single but an open letter which detailed the abhorrent levels of racism she's encountered throughout her life due to her Pacific-Indian heritage.

That's heavy stuff before we even get to the recent relationship breakdown and subsequent break-up during the writing of the album.

This means the lyrical subject matter is almost exclusively confronting (the title track) or a downer (the rest of the songs).

It shouldn't put you off. Musically, Brown Girl is an incredibly varied album that touches on many of Motown's signature sounds and styles and only occasionally suffers the odd misfire.

With such intimate and revealing songwriting it's not surprising that Aaradhna's vocals are as soulful, impressive and, more importantly, as real as ever.

So although the predominant theme is her unrequited or unappreciated love, she does occasionally branch out. Most notably on the sultry, excitable Messin Around, with its suggestive horn blasts and seductive vocals ("I've got what you like /come on let's take that ride").

The upbeat Island rhythms of I'm the One for You disguises the yearning behind its closing refrain, "I believe that one day you'll find / that I'm the one for you", as does the singalong hook of Under the Blue Moon.

Highlights include the shuffling electro-tinged boom beats of album opener Welcome to the Jungle, Empty Hall which transforms her into the Amy Winehouse of the Pacific, and the carefree, upbeat Drunken Heart, Smokey Mind, which is surely destined to become something of an anthem for those out looking for a good time, not a long time.

Contrast that with the extended raw blues of Devil's Living in My Shadow. This track gives Aaradhna a chance to really let rip and sees her delivering a powerhouse performance that not only showcases her control and range but also the vocal ferocity at her disposal.

If only there wasn't such a laserlike focus on the failings of her love life. You barely get time to recover from one heartbreak before you're straight on to the next. Couple that (sorry, bad choice of words there ) with her over-reliance on the word "I", and it can get a little tiresome.

But that's where she's at right now, and the honesty of what she's singing about is never in question.

If it's the classic R&B of Motown that's the sound of the record then it's Aaradhna's unguarded emotion that defines it.

Review: Aaradhna, Brown Girl

Verdict: A soul baring dose of modern Motown

- TimeOut

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