Britain’s Got Talent judge Amanda Holden releases her debut album Songs From My Heart, full of musical theatre treats and Sheridan Smith
“You pulled me in and together we’re lost in a dream”
I’ve never actually seen an episode of Britain’s Got Talent so the rise of Amanda Holden to “undoubtedly one of Britain’s best loved entertainers” is one that has largely passed me by. That’s not to denigrate a career that has impressively straddled many media though and with the release of her debut album Songs From My Heart, it is clear that she hasn’t finished adding strings to her bow.
The album sees her delve mainly into the world of musical theatre (I did see her in Shrek the Musical back in 2011) and it is an endeavour in which she acquits herself well. Holden has a lovely clear voice but more impressively, an interpretative style that is blessedly free of unnecessary riffs and that pervasive need that many have to make the material ‘their own’.
Her clarity of tone thus means ‘With You’ from Ghost the Musical shimmers with a spectral beauty, ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ proves really quite affecting in its unalloyed conviction and her lower register shivers the spine and warms the soul in a gorgeous rendition of ‘Hushabye Mountain’. The tenderness of Holden’s vocal approach is wisely carried through to the poppier side to the tracklisting. Randy Newman’s ‘When She Loved Me’ and Christina Perri’s ‘A Thousand Years’ are lushly rendered as particular standouts.
If there’s any criticism to be made, it’s only that on a personal level, there’s not a huge amount of originality to the album’s tracklisting, particularly in its second half. As pleasant as they are and as strong Holden’s personal connections to the material, I don’t know if the world needs more conventional versions of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’, ‘Over the Rainbow’ and ‘Somewhere’. Then again, is this the kind of collection where one would expect (or even want) big surprises?
It isn’t. The kind of curveball it delivers is a subtler one than that. And nowhere is it seen better than in the duet with Sheridan Smith on Chess‘ iconic ‘I Know Him So Well’. The biggest surprise is that neither goes overboard, embellishing vocal lines with histrionics. Instead is an impassioned rendition of the song more or less as written and the result is just glorious. As the nights draw in and the weather goes to shit, Songs From My Heart is the kind of album to enjoy whilst wrapping yourself in a blanket with a cup of cocoa.