Our Songs


Stars By Edel, 2023


REVIEW BY: Peter Piatkowski


Anastacia has a career best described as interesting. Born in Chicago and raised in New York City, she’s had an incredible career, selling a reported 50 million albums. And yet, in her native United States, she’s largely unknown. In Europe, she’s a major star, scoring a series of top 10 hits in Germany, UK, Italy and Switzerland. In terms of celebrity, she’s got it made: she’s a huge star throughout the world, and yet remains relatively anonymous in the States, free from the paparazzi and prying fans.

It's this specific situation that informs her eighth studio album, Our Songs. Her first LP in five years, Our Songs is inspired by German rock music, and consists of (mostly) rock, punk, and metal songs from Germany, a market which she conquered. And though she’s clearly influenced by rock divas like Joan Jett or Chrissie Hynde, as a performer, she sounds more like Taylor Dayne, and instead of maintaining some of the harder rock elements of the tunes she’s covering, her album recasts these songs as sleek, polished pop-rock, sounding like ’90s-era Tina Turner.

Anastacia opens up the album with the album’s first single, “Best Days,” a take on German punk outfit Die Toten Hosen’s “Tage wie diese.” The original song was an arena-rock style ballad and Anastacia holds on to the song’s original structure—truth be told, even though Die Toten Hosen is a punk band, the song is a stab at mainstream rock, so Anastacia didn’t have to travel too far from her wheelhouse to record “Best Days,” except producer Christian Geller smooths out any rough edges, burnishing the tune with a pop sheen. In her hands, “Best Days” becomes a large, cinematic power ballad, similar to something that Tina Turner, Cher, or Bonnie Taylor would’ve roared on stage in the 1990s—like the older divas, Anastacia has a large snarl of a voice, one that soars like a jet. Is “Best Days” distinct or unique? Not really—it sounds like something that would be played during an empowered commercial or PSA, but it’s suitably stirring. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

With Geller, Anastacia applies the “more is more” ethos on “Supergirl,” originally recorded by Reamonn in 2000. Instead of sticking to the moody, minimalist alt-rock, the duo choose to pump the song with bombast. She curls her giant voice around the lyrics in a lower register before unleashing that giant boom of a croon on the chorus, which becomes far catchier than the original when recast as an A/C rock tune. (Though the inclusion of a woefully misplaced Spanish guitar is unfortunate.)

When deciding which songs to cover, Anastacia appears to have largely stuck to her seeming love of rock, but she’s a pop singer and when she covers pop songs, the transition feels smoother and more sympathetic. So, for example, incorporating some of her dance diva sounds on the driving “Now or Never” (a cover of Johannes Oerding’s “Au guten tag”) is a highlight because instead of leaning into the somewhat dull and tasteful sound of the power balladry of most of the tunes, she’s invigorated the record with some energy and verve.

Another high point is her cover of Tokio Hotel’s “Monsoon,” which leans into her melodic pop diva warbling. The original tune is light and catchy and the cover gains some gravitas and texture because of Anastacia’s heavy voice (Tokio Hotel lead Bill Kaulitz has pleasing thin tones). On a song like “Monsoon” it’s clear just how much Anastacia owes to Geffen-era Cher—her take on “Monsoon” sounds like any one of Cher’s ’80s-rock chick persona.

If it sounds like I’m suggesting that Our Songs is derivative, well, that’s because it is. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, given that it’s a covers album and a tribute to German popular music. But I wish that Anastacia and Christian Geller stepped outside of the clean, smooth pop/rock they applied to the record and maybe pushed her in a harder, more rugged direction. The tasteful production on the album makes the album sound somewhat monotonous and oddly dated. Also, there’s a highly questionable cover of the sludgy ’80s synth ballad “Forever Young” that fails despite Anastacia’s committed performance.

That’s not to say that all of Our Songs is bland. “Symphony” is moving and gorgeous. “Cello” is similarly and touching. Both songs are decidedly stylistically different moves for the singer—instead of relying on her massive voice to steamroll over the tunes, she allows for some subtle singing, as she plays with phrasing and tone. She’s not the most insightful stylist but she has a very good voice, capable of some beautiful crooning.

Thirty years into her career, Anastacia can be trusted to follow her instincts and paying tribute to the tunes of a country that has embraced her seems like a great idea. And the song choices complement the singer’s range and talents, but ultimately, she sells herself short and plays it far too safe. Still, her talent is undeniable, and even underneath the layers of studio gloss heaped on top of her voice, she manages to cut through.

Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2023 Peter Piatkowski and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Stars By Edel, and is used for informational purposes only.