Soft-spoken, barefoot-and-bar-stools type chanteuse: time to shatter those illusions you might have of Carmen Smith, who y’all might recognise as one of the stand out contestants in the inaugural season of The Voice Australia.
The redhead singer/songwriter, who paid her dues for years as a backing vocalist for Guy Sebastian and Jessica Mauboy, is now ready to take centre stage and flaunt a sassier side.
I mean, PhD in Deciphering The Obvious aside, the title ‘They Don’t Know Me’ is a no-brainer indication that there’s probably more to Carmen than the introspective, soulful performances she served on The Voice.
This confident four-track EP is an unexpected gust of toe-tapping funk and soul, mixed with bright streaks of youthful pop/rock. I’m confident that this is the start of an exciting new level for the Australian singer.
The title track serves an infectious energy that recalls Janelle Monae‘s ‘Tightrope’ – featuring adorable “whoo-whoo-whoo”s and a sly spoken word rap. With lines like – “there ain’t no labels that can box me in. That don’t fly with me!” – we get a glimpse of a feisty independent artist who won’t shy away from commanding own creative project.
Elsewhere, the horns-driven number ‘Get Ya Off’ is designed for vamping about in a little red dress. “It’s time for some satisfaction! Buy me a drink, Scotch straight on the rocks. Go in real hard or you’ll get no reaction,” Carmen orders. Quickest way to separate the men from the boys.
The one slow-burner of the pack – ‘Dare’ – is a sensual affair that should speak to any takers of Beyoncé‘s downtempo album tracks on Dangerously in Love. You can just imagine this being the hypnotic centrepiece of Carmen’s live set.
Elsewhere, we hear the Aussie songbird capably shift gears into a spat of nostalgic 80s rock in ‘Breaker of Hearts’ – a corker that would be well-placed on any summer road trip playlist. Is it just me or do y’all hear the spirit of Martha and The Muffins‘ ‘Echo Beach’ calling out to you in here?
It would’ve been mighty safe and convenient for Carmen to continue laying acoustic-based material like she had in the past – her newfound fan base from The Voice would probably lap it up anyway – but her efforts to redefine her artistry here is far more worthy of kudos.
The bold and bigger sound she’s pitching now with this clutch of songs is precisely the kind of assertive material you expect from a main event artist – not some backing vocalist biding her time. Watch this space.
Carmen Smith‘s They Don’t Know Me EP is out now on iTunes.