When a good friend of mine came back from a trip to the UK in addition to hearing him tell stories of the places he visited, since we’re kind of  music nerds, most of of what I yearned to hear about was the music he encountered across the pond.  He immediately let me know about this song he couldn’t escape when he was on vacation.  “This chick is very YOU” he told me.  I guess the constant exposure to the song left him with some gaps in his memory as all he could tell me at the time was the name of the song, “Sweet About Me”.  I quickly scribbled it down on a piece of paper and slipped it in my pocket–excited to get home and solve this musical mystery.

About a day later I found that piece of paper on my desk and went to the first place I figured would get me instant restults–YouTube.  Seconds later I find Gabriella Cilmi making her way around the room checking in on some ex-loves caught in a cargo net, tied to a chair, dangling upside from the ceiling, and taped to the floor (among other places and punishments).  She slinks around the room reminding singing the chorus, “Sweet about me, nothing’s sweet about me…”

The cover of Gabriella Cilmi's "Lessons to Be Learned"

There are many  moments on her debut, LESSONS TO BE LEARNED that are pure pop, but there’s some slices of soul hidden as well.  “Don’t Wanna Go To Bed Now” and “Terrifying” have the potential to be huge sing-along tracks–they’d easily fit alongside her pop music peers in the US.  The UK release contains a bonus cover of the Martha & the Muffins hit “Echo Beach”.  My initial thought (I’ll admit, I’d never heard this song before, so I did a little research and learned it was a cover) was that song feels like it was written to complement a reality show about young kids growing up in the sunny town of Echo Beach.  Gabriela’s cover is actually used as the theme for the UK Soap “Echo Beach”

I’ll admit, before doing my homework my initial thought was, “I like it, but do we really want ANOTHER soulful sounding girl from across the pond?  Don’t get me wrong–I love music, and in the last few years have found an increasing interest in all things soulful.  Gabriella Cilmi sounds like what Amy Winehouse might’ve sounded like at 16 (Cilmi’s current age). Although outside of her lead single “Sweet About Me” there isn’t much need for Amy comparisons–the songs are essentially pure pop, with the occasional soulful twist.  Hailing from the land down under (Australia…just in case you didn’t get the reference), it’s kind of your classic tale of the underdog with Gabriella.  When she tried out for a high school musical she was told she lacked the discipline to be a good singer.  What do most driven people do when they’re told they can’t…they do.  She formed a garage rock band, recorded a demo, and soon enough caught the attention of a local producer–which led to a deal with Island Records.  

She’s got a voice on her.  Honestly–there’s something I do like about every track on the record–and it’s not all upbeat, as she slows things down on “Einstein” and “Sit In The Blues”.  I even stumbled upon her tackling Ne-Yo’s “Closer”–and it was pretty good.  The videos are worth checking out on YouTube–kinda cutesy and fun.  I’d feared this CD wouldn’t see the light of day in the States, but “Lessons To Be Learned” lands in stores, Tuesday, September 16.