It's been a long while since I've reviewed an album...that being the Backstreet Boys way back in late May. But after receiving an album in the mail with a press kit, I thought it maybe high time I put out my opinion once again.
The album aforementioned comes from 25 year old NYU grad Kristin Hoffmann, an Interscope recording artist and the A&R reps and scouts at the NYC-based label need to pat themselves on the back and earn rather fat bonuses for finding what has to be the most impressive pedigree out of any new talent I've seen in the seven years I've been covering the music industry. It is new talent like Kristin that hopefully will be leading the music industry, not some tasteless cookie-cutter hack that only last 15 minutes.
Her debut, 'Real' is probably the most underpublicized but most impressive debut in 2005. It highlights her training in Julliard's highly selective, competitive, and elite pre-college program where she was on the fast track towards being a classical/operatic composer. 'Real' also could rejuvenate the classical/pop crossover genre, now overrun by big ego producers, cookie-cutter talent, and mediocre talent whose impressive credentials could be questioned or just simply wasted (a la Josh Groban). It is a strong debut, starting strong with the piano intro to 'Silhouette' to the piano-driven end of 'I Declare.'
The album starts out with 'Silhouette,' which has a Sarah McLachlan feel to the lyrics, an influence Kristin lists in her Myspace site. In fact, Hoffmann sounds much like McLachlan but that's where it ends. Hoffmann is an accomplished classical pianist, a strong songwriter, which stems from her time in Julliard's pre-college program where she composed many compositions. The strongest song in the 10-track set is probably 'Falling,' which for 5 minutes tingled my senses. The violin part made the song haunting and with Kristin's semi-sultry vocals, it made it even more haunting and would grab the attention of any listener. I like the Sarah Brightman-touch when she went into her higher octave, perhaps paying homage to the first female classical-pop crossover artist.
The title track, 'Real' is the most poignant track of the set and it also defied typical convention that the title track is a dud compared to the rest. It's also the most relevant, pointing out that people are afraid of being true to themselves and perhaps it's her message to the music industry that she won't sacrifice her musical integrity and identity to just make a couple more bucks.
Probably the only weak track in the whole thing is ‘When We Were Kids.’ I’m sure she had good intentions with the strong lyrics, but it got muddled by the instrumentation which couldn’t decide between an alt-country feel and a pop-country feel. It certainly ruined the writing.
All in all, Hoffmann crafted a very strong debut. Honestly there wasn’t a bad song at all except for maybe ‘When We Were Kids.’ Even the title track defied conventional thinking, ending up as the second strongest song and most complete of the album. It is obvious the boys at Julliard and NYU have prepared this young up and coming talent for the long-term and I would love to see what Kristin brings to the table for a sophomore effort.
Final verdict: 'Real' gets a 4.5 out of 5. A couple of the songs seem out of her element and while it appears Kristin pulled it off, it just wasn't enough for her to get the first-ever perfect score ever; I thought it was just rough edges, but that's to be expected out of any debut. She already has become a triple threat, capable of writing, composing, and performing, which also means she has complete control over her music and she immediately proves on her debut that all her producers should be doing is making sure the boards work fine. I'd like to see her develop her classical-pop crossover as it has potential to bring it back to heights not seen since Placido Domingo and Sarah Brightman. She already has a developed voice, a major plus for someone so young, can compose, and play several instruments with mastery. The female music circuit has been looking for someone to answer to John Mayer, who also can play several instruments, write, and compose. I think they’ve found it in Kristin. She is definitely someone you should know right now and someone who I think will make big waves next year. You can check out her music at your preferred digital downloads store, or at her Myspace, or on her official website!
-Reviewed by Alan Ho
Alan Ho is the founder/chief head and jack-of-all trades at Musiqtone. He also writes the occasional review and feature article whenever the heck he wants to. You can contact him at email@example.com.
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