January 27, 2012

ALBUM REVIEW: Zia - Zia (2011)

I remember how refreshing it was listening to Zia Quizon’s “Ako Na Lang” on pop radio for the very first time. Unlike her contemporaries on the format, Zia brings authentic wistfulness in her vocal delivery, basked in a carefully arranged, jazz-pop slant that glides at its most breathtaking subtlety. When Zia breaks into hurtful pleading, asking for a chance at love, she actually sounds more like an adorable sweetheart rather than a wounded lady blinded by pathetic, one-sided love. “What are you waiting for? Call my number knock on the door. Andito lang ako, how I wish you let me know,” she beseeches, as defenseless and as honest as every women out there who might have experienced the same stuff puppy love is made of. It’s cute with teeth-mark of desperation and sadness in it, something that’s pretty much rare in pop music these days.

Unfortunately, that effortless charm in “Ako Na Lang” doesn’t transpire in most of the songs in Zia Quizon’s self-titled debut. In true record industry fashion, the talented Zia had to undergo image experiment—her label still unsure whether to market her as a soul sweetheart, a big band crooner, or a cover artist bound to sing the A-Z of the karaoke hit list. The covers range from interesting (the Sheena Easton original, “Simple Girl’) to coffee shop-boring (“Smile” and “Mambobola”), off-putting her potentials as a budding talent with so much to offer. “Dear Lonely” is an enjoyable pop-rock number with stirring orchestral ballast to complement it, but the song itself sounds like a complete left over from Pink’s catalogue. And then there’s the swingy ‘50s vibe in “Simple Girl,” which Zia penned herself. It’s overwrought and over-produced to an extent; an older lounge singer could do magic and ace it in a finger snap. Plus the fact that she’s too prim to carry the weight of the song.

I shouldn’t be giving unsolicited advice at this point. I just think Zia could do well with a more contemporary blend of pop/soul/jazz type of material or simply put it, better record producers to work with. Leaping towards the retro territory just doesn’t seem to fit her mold and cover songs only add insult to her capability as a promising singer-songwriter with a knack for emotional kick. Zia’s vocals have always been her biggest strength in the first place. And I hope in the next album, her production team would make proper use of it.   B- 

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