When I first heard Paloma Faith’s song ‘New York’, released in 2009 on her album Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful, I thought it was a bit meh… The song featured a sweeping gospel chorus by the London based Souls of Prophecy Gospel Choir… and well, at that stage I was not big on ‘pop-choir ensemble work’.
However, when Faith re-released ‘New York’ in June 2010, as a new remix with the American rapper Ghostface Killah, I’d already started to warm up to this retro-soul and lovesick, slow-jamming songstress, who once doubled as a magician’s assistant and burlesque dancer, called Miss Direction.
Nowadays, I can’t stop listening to her… Paloma Faith (born Paloma Faith Blomfield) is one of those unique musical talents that slowly start to grow on you… until they have you hooked… and then their grip never loosens.
The Hackney-born Londoner’s second album, Fall To Grace, was inspired by none other than Prince, who asked Faith to perform at his NPG Music Festival in Denmark, in 2011. Of this experience she said: “He taught me that good songs can be approached in different ways, and told me to critique my performance after every gig. With his encouragement, I feel as if I can achieve anything.”
It’s almost exactly a year since I saw Paloma Faith’s promotional tour for her second album at the O2 Arena in London — one of the most beautiful and enjoyable live concerts I’ve ever been to and a part of the reason for this is the fact that Faith was in that wonderful place where she realised things were starting to happen for her… and yet her feet remained firmly on the ground.
There was a poignant moment during the performance when she looked over the cheering crowd, and said: “I never thought this day would come… Filling an arena with people that love my music and what I do, just a couple of miles away from where I used to work in a pub… it only goes to show: dreams do come true.”
It’s brilliant to witness someone standing on the cusp of something great in their life — owning who they are.
After the release of Faith’s Fall To Grace, she found herself being compared with the late jazzy diva, Amy Winehouse… perhaps a shadow she did not want to live in. By comparison, Faith’s musical style may be distantly similar, but for the rest: she is squeaky clean and dresses far too flamboyantly.
With the recent release of her third studio album, A Perfect Contradiction, she is stepping into her own trademark style: A soulful groove combined with an eccentric visual style that gives her the air of an old-fashioned film star, with a souped-up cabaret quality.
Her live performance at Camden Round House last night, was enchanting, quirky, witty and above all, a showpiece of her remarkable individuality. Faith has a good ear for melody and an intelligent, poetic turn of phrase. Her punchy, joyful and uplifting set of pastiche Sixties and Seventies soul, funk, r’n’b and disco was perfectly pitched, and the 50s beehive ballad, Only Love Can Hurt Like This, was presented with the dramatic poise of a tragic heroine.
A Perfect Contradiction probably won’t achieve critical acclaim, simply because Faith’s statement retro-style and powerful voice might be a tad too off-beat for the mainstream pop aficionados. Something they cannot take too serious… at least for now.
However, for those who revel in genre-skipping sensibility, the album is stocked with irresistible dance numbers. There were a few times while I was listening to the mishmash of R&B, disco, and soul sounds that I caught myself thinking: Billie Holliday? James Brown? Aretha Franklin? The list goes on…
Two words: Paloma Rocks!