Louisa Allen (aka Foxes) first album, Glorious, whilst being generally favourably received, never got the hype to enable her to burst onto the female ‘experimental pop’ scene as artists such as Charli XCX and Jess Glynne have managed to. Instead whilst songs such as Let It Go For Tonight were well received, Foxes seemed to remain below the surface teasing something exciting in prospect of a breakout. This looked like it may have happened with her collaboration with Zedd on Clarity, which made a fantastic individual record and could have provided a springboard for this album to propel Foxes into the big leagues.
However this seems not to have happened; whilst her sophomore effort, All I Need, is a good album, there is nothing distinctive about it, which is a shame given that Allen has a better voice than many of her pop contemporaries such as Charli XCX or Rita Ora. But in an increasingly crowded genre of music it is hard to see anything distinctive about her music. Indeed some of her contemporaries seem to be channelled within the album: the pre-chorus of Body Talk, the most publicised song on the album, is overly reminiscent of Lady Gaga’s Poker Face (a comparison to Lady Gaga not being compliment for song) ruining what otherwise may be a fairly strong pop song with a catchy, synth-driven chorus. Synths feature quite heavily in the album which has drawn a reasonable amount from electro-pop influences, such as in Cruel, another song which whilst having its good parts, fails to achieve the distinctiveness to make it more than a solidly good song.
The album does have some very good songs. If You Leave Me Now is slower, with hints of an artist like Rae Morris; it has a greater emphasis on Allen’s voice, which sounds emotionally vulnerable, and the stringed backing track adds a different dimension to the music. Better Love was written alongside Dan Smith of Bastille (which almost guarantees it being a good song) and the backing in the chorus is reminiscent of some of Bastille’s music but distinct enough of them to be in keeping with Allen’s more pop-focussed style.
However many of the songs just remain pleasant to listen to and easily forgettable. Amazing is just another feel good song which could be played in almost any context, enjoyed and then swiftly forgotten. Foxes’ lyrical style is honest and emotional but without any lyrical complexity, which can make her songs fairly repetitive. They need some other angle to make them stand out from artists such as Halsey or Indiana and too many of these songs lack this.
To be fair, however, whilst Foxes may be lacking many stand out songs, the album doesn’t have many poor songs, the exception being Money, which has a pleasantly staccato pre-chorus but is thoroughly destroyed by a twee, irritating overly repetitive chorus which I’m sad to say is reminiscent of something written by Carly Rae Jepson. Enough said.
To be fair the album (standard edition) finishes strongly if slightly darkly with the Sia-esque On My Way another stripped back, vocal-heavy piece with backing from strings and piano adding to the darkly grave feel of the song.
Strangely possibly the best electro-pop song on the album is only on the deluxe version Shoot Me Down has a persistent beat and catchy dance music with a slightly clichéd but fun vocal line which raises some questions as to the song selection for the album (All I Need, despite being the album’s title, is also seems too strong a song to be only on the deluxe version).
All in all, All I Need is a good album. It has a couple of very good songs, only one terrible one and the rest are somewhere in between. But it’s nothing more than a good album, and doesn’t live up to the promise that Clarity hinted at nor does it seem it will be enough to allow Foxes to break into the big leagues. To do that her third album will have to do something different, something distinctive, she has all the musical requirements; all that’s needed now is some uniqueness.