Upcoming pop starlet Claudia Norris is not sure what kind of EP she wants to make on her third effort thus far, Shine. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as it leads to a varied set of tunes that take some chances and are unafraid of changing up styles throughout. Most pop artists following the flavor of the week trend suffer from writing the same song on after another and never really finding an identity beyond what the studio producers and label executives will allow them to create. That’s why the independent music scene, even pop, is the best place to find exciting new talent in the ever-changing musical climate of the 2010s.
Norris was off to a great start with previous EPs Love, Claudia and Hello, Hello, but Shine finds her really settling into her own pair of shoes comfortably as an artist. “Tonight” is teeming with life and love, simple guitar riffs and insistent bass lines finding their running legs thanks to a popping, bass drum beat guaranteed to shake loose a floorboard or two whenever played at the proper volume. Though certain phrases of Norris’ vocals are phased and reversed with auto-tune, the singer is allowed to get into a fluid lyrical delivery that utilizes her lofty range and melodic assets to their full capacity. The chorus is a monument of curvy, voluptuous pop sensibility designed to be recited back by thousands of people in an arena-sized venue. It isn’t complex or technically astounding, b ut rather a superbly layered, powerfully delivered crescendo of live wire melodicism that matches Bieber and Swift at their own respective games.
The title track slows things down but cruises at high speed into a radio rock anthem with electric guitar embellished verses that clear the way for Norris’ vibrato vocal might during the chorus. Touches of stripped-down, country songwriting are present in the rhythms with root-note bass lines and pocket percussion keeping the music tightly woven together for a dynamic rise whenever Norris’ mantra like vocals command the forefront. “Marry you” is the odd man out. It’s a sublime ballad of love and yearning with electronic drum-work, acoustic guitar and piano played backing melodies. Claudia’s vocals sound great in the verses but the chorus isn’t without its awkward moments and somewhat unnecessary repetitions (the phrasing of words is good but Norris eventually falls into making a sort of “Oooh” sound a little too often in a lengthy track). Still the song is quite good even if it could have used a bit more trimming on the cutting room floor. That leaves finale number “Sunny Afternoon” to bring things around with a straight country jam reminiscent of LeAnn Rimes filled to the brim with acoustic/slide guitar juxtaposition, toe-tapping drums, south of the Mason Dixon bass grooves and Norris’ finest vocal performance on the entire record that shows noticeable progression from the verses to the chorus. It’s a real charmer of a song and the one that is destined to get the most repeat plays from the reviewer. In a way, it summarizes and provides a perfect snapshot of Claudia Norris’ abilities in one robust, succinct track. Shine is the EP that will no doubt catapult Norris’ music to the next level and hopefully national radio will soon pick up on this wonderful new artist as a result!
8 out of 10 stars.
– James Stonecipher