Chelsea Jade's debut album has been a long time coming. Low Brow, the fifth song on Personal Best, was first released as a single three years ago; a number of others have been drip-fed in the years since. Personal Best, as a whole, contains only five new songs, four if you discount the titular intro.
For those who have followed the artist since she shed her previous moniker, Watercolours, the lack of new material makes engagement with Personal Best difficult. It reads more as a stack of singles and although there's no shortage of rock-solid bangers, the lack of variation starts to tire past the halfway mark.
But for those discovering Jade through Personal Best, it's a strong introduction to her incredible songwriting and knack for clean and smart pop perfection. From the introspective dazzle of Life of the Party to the rousing yells of Pitch Dark, Jade can effortlessly wrap complex language around irresistible pop hooks; she oscillates between first and third person perspectives, deepening the emotional power of her lyrics, and can drop words such as "liminal", "omnipresent" and "coalesce" into her songs without so much as a ripple. Boh Runga would be proud.
The production is dynamic and muscular throughout, particularly on Laugh It Off, which sounds like the kind of pure, mid-tempo pop Haim were reaching for on their last record Something to Tell You. But it's the one highlight from a latter half that otherwise disappoints, particularly with the lacklustre closer Speedboat, reportedly an ode to Jade's friend, Lorde; its flat hooks and chorus fail to match its words of empowerment.
Jade is undeniably a phenomenal talent, and Personal Best is a fine display of her skills. It's unfortunate that it's blighted by a lack of new songs – but it's a promising debut nonetheless, with many a song that deserves to be listened to as loud as possible.
Artist: Chelsea Jade
Album: Personal Best
Label: Create Music Group
Verdict: Lack of new material diminishes an otherwise strong debut