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Saturday, 23 February 2013

Emilia Mitiku : I Belong To You review

She is the pop songbird who ended the nineties with a worldwide hit in bohemian Big Big World.

Fourteen years later Emilia Mitiku is older and wiser, no longer needing to be everybody’s darling, and with little or nothing to prove.

“That was important back then,” says the 35-year-old, who first found chart fame simply as Emilia.

“When you’re young, you feel you have to win the approval of everybody.

“But not now.

“I’ll always be grateful for the success I had but it’s only now that I can look back and make some sense of it all. I’m not that person anymore.

“If you’re going to ask for people’s time, you have to be honest.”

Cue a return to the music Emilia heard on the record player of her Swedish mother and Ethiopian jazz singing father, Teshome Mitiku.

“I gew up immersed in the music of Etta, Ella, Eartha and Billie,” she says. “Going back to that music happened so naturally, albeit slowly.

“These melodies were probably always there; they just took their time getting out. I’ve always sung this way, though it’s taken me until now to represent that on an album.”

Complete with a moody sleeve makeover, I Belong To You comprises mostly self-penned songs in classic jazz-pop style and a clutch of covers, some of them strictly unnecessary.

Not that it sounds dated. Both So Wonderful and You’re Breaking My Heart are throughly contemporary, the latter with Mitiku’s R&B vocal backed by jangly guitar, whistling and subtle soprano sax – a hit single in the waiting, perhaps.

Lost Inside could be a swampy Tony Joe White song given a polished paint job, and Ooh La La is playful piano boogie brought up to date.

The title track is late night jazz, all piano, softly brushed snare and a vocal nod to Billie Holiday. You’re Not Right For Me would have been right for Diana Ross, too.

Mitiku even manages to keep a straight face on the delightfully daft Zou Bisou Bisou, the French pop song that left Don Draper so unimpressed during Mad Men.

But the cover of Dream A Little Dream adds nothing to the Ella Fitzgerald original and Doris Day’s Again is filler.

Still, a good album on which even the new songs sound as if they were 50s and 60s classics you always knew.

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