I feel like not enough credit is given to Australian pop vixen Ricki-Lee for how she’s turned her life and music career around.
This time last year, I remember tweeting reminiscently about Ms Coulter’s rather likable first two albums – Ricki-Lee and Brand New Day – and ranted to everyone in earshot about why she needed to give music another chance.
The waters were left deadly still after the Aussie Idol star upped and left her stillborn album Hear No, See No, Speak No in 2009 and independent record deal with Shock.
There were no guest features on other artists’ records, no huddling back with Young Divas, no free download EP launched under a pseudonym – nothing. Fans probably feared for the worst.
But little did we know that in 2011, gears were already in place for Coulter to drop what I would consider to be her career-defining single Raining Diamonds and reveal an exciting international major label deal with EMI.
It was a king hit no one saw coming.
Ten months after announcing her official return to the music industry, the album Fear & Freedom hits stores with the most deafening response Coulter has ever garnered for any of her LPs.
Within four hours, Fear & Freedom had already topped the iTunes pop charts and by the end of its first day, it had leapt to #2 on the overall Australian iTunes album charts.
The path to Fear & Freedom was paved by three magnificently infectious singles: the aforementioned anthem Raining Diamonds, Do It Like That and recently,Crazy – each proving to be capable ambassadors for the project.
Fear & Freedom is without question Ricki-Lee’s best and strongest body of work to date. She has never had a more cohesive album and one that is so evidently ready for the international market.
The shimmering European-style dance/pop productions are perfect backdrops for Coulter’s signature big vocals, which come charging at the gates with anthemic lyrics to fulfill the album’s liberating themes.
The beauty about Fear & Freedom as a “dance music-style” album is that, its approach is still completely that of a pedigree pop album.
You get a sense that each track was crafted with lyrics and radio-friendly melodies as a priority – unlike a lot of Top 40 dance-inflected hits these days, which are clearly driven by nothing but the beat.
In fact, half of the collaborators on this album are not typically associated with crafting club floor fillers. Vince Pizzinga, who co-wrote and produced the stunning ‘I Feel Love’ and ‘On The Floor’, is better known for working with Delta Goodrem on piano-laden gems like ‘Innocent Eyes’.
Elsewhere, there are creative matings with legitimate dance music heads: Sydney-bred DJ and producer Hook N Sling (aka Anthony Maniscalco) hems one of the album’s prospective singles – ‘Burn It Down’ – and ’World Disappears’, a stroblit Ibiza-ready cut.
The 26-year old popstar, who co-wrote all 12 tracks on Fear & Freedom (counting the bonus tracks), has always been adept at penning empowering anthems but this is actually her most truthful project yet.
Album opener ‘Human’ sets the tone when you hear Ricki-Lee confess:
“I can fake it like everyone else, be falling apart but no one can tell… sometimes life can feel like it’s just one big show. I’ll play my role, but you have to know I’m human.”
When it comes to the love songs, they don’t come more sincere than they do right now with Fear & Freedom.
While she was writing her last album – Brand New Day – at age 21, Coulter was stuck in a caving marriage and confessed that she was writing with this “fantasy love in mind”, unable to be completely honest about the way things were really going.
Now in a healthier state of mind and evidently glowing in love with her partner and manager Richard Harrison, Ricki-Lee sounds more at ease addressing the topic.
Slow-burning tracks like ‘Bombshell’ – produced by Ministry of Sound chief remixer Sammy Jay – reveal the sensual tones of a loved up, confident woman cooing, “you make me feel like a bombshell… oooh, I’ve got you under my spell!”
Elsewhere, the cheeky ‘On The Floor’ is an ode of love making on the dance floor: “I still remember the T-shirt you were wearing, reminiscing like woah. You had my back against the wall, we’re dancing and we’re kissing like oh… on the floor tonight, I wanna do it like we did on the first time…”
All in all, Fear & Freedom is an uplifting and immediate pop album that injects Ricki-Lee‘s megawatt energy to its listeners in ways we’ve never experienced before.
Vibrant, triumphant and genuine – in a lot of ways, it reminds me of the great nods I gave when I first heard RuPaul‘s Glamazon album.
You just know that Fear & Freedom will be the gift that keeps on giving long after the glitter cannons have been fired, wind machines packed away, and love making taken from the club to the backseat of a taxi.