Aussie pop supreme, Tina Arena, returns with Reset: her first album of originals in 12 years. For most of my fellow Aussies, this isn’t news as you’ve had this album for a year now but it’s only just getting a UK release. Thus, this timely review.
The singer, best known for her 90s hit ‘Chains’, has gone back to basics with a collection of pop mid-tempos that are sophisticated and heartfelt.
Despite this being her long-waited comeback, Reset doesn’t reek of desperation. Tina doesn’t have time to dick around with fleeting trends in pop. This is her ninth studio album, she knows what she does best, and that is bringing emotions and stories to life in song. And boy, does Reset have emotions and stories. 12 years between albums is a long time, with lots of living and growing up. (Side note: check out my interview with Tina for more.)
Tina, who co-wrote every track on this album, brings a mature outlook on themes that are close to us like love, insecurities, regrets and moving on. ‘You Set Fire To My Life’ – no doubt, one of the most exquisite Tina Arena singles ever – is a love song dedicated to her partner who stays in her corner and lets her shine.
She sings, “You took my hand and then you let me leave. You say, ‘Go light up the room’ and so that’s what I did. Every time I call you lost and down, it’s in your voice that I find hallowed ground. You say you love me like a wall surrounds, it makes me light up the room like I’ve just been found”.
As uplifting as this all sounds, the most beautiful part of ‘You Set Fire To My Life’ is actually the realist’s interjection, where Tina explains in the middle of this massively euphoric chorus that she doesn’t care whether the feeling remains when she gets older. She is just happy to live in the moment. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the gems of Reset – the honesty and reflection Tina shares through her music.
Elsewhere, ‘Don’t Hide’ is a pulsating pop anthem about life with all its constant changes and curiosities. She sings, “You know that life will teach you everything, everything. No wrong no right. Embracing everything, everything… So don’t hide, just fly. This is how life goes…”
Sonically, Reset shows that Tina has learned less is more. She is no longer trying to outsing herself and she’s sounding more consistent than ever. No more stretching herself in different directions to please different audiences by dabbling in subtle dance-pop one minute and reverting to funky Nile Rodgers tunes the next (see her peculiar but enjoyable 2001 album Just Me).
There’s a positive synergy amongst collaborators on this album, many of them working with Tina for the first time. ‘Still Running’ is co-penned by former Australian Idol singer-turned-hit songwriter, Hayley Warner. The lyrics sting like the first welling of tears in your eyes as an emotional Tina lets out, ‘You took my freedom but I’m still running / You tore my heart out but it’s still beating / You stole my beauty but I’m still glowing / These walls I’ve built up, you can’t climb no more’.
Robert Conley – who has written and produced for the likes of Darren Hayes and Celine Dion – hemmed a lot of the tracks on Reset, balancing organic pianos and strings with subtle electronic productions. All in all, Reset is an elegantly-produced collection of songs that feel lived-in and honest – a true reflection of the woman who is widely recognised to this day as Australia’s finest female vocalist.
Standout tracks: ‘You Set Fire to My Life’, ‘Don’t Hide’, ‘Reset All’ and ‘Still Running’.