Claudia Norris has released two low key pop EPs full of pop goodness and continues to grow her fan base with a third called Shine. Norris works her material in a very admirable, grassroots sort of way that avoids the use of outside contributors (in the songwriting department) as she uploads the material herself to YouTube and does all of the work in getting it out there. In a current scene where most pop songsmiths don’t even compose their own material let alone get involved in pushing it online, that’s quite an accomplishment.
Shine plays to Claudia’s strengths and they are many. Those expecting something they’ve never heard before might not be in the right department but music fans searching for good pop song craft should enjoy the four songs on offer. Of the quartet the opener “Tonight” and closer “Sunny Afternoon” are easily the best and the most rocked-out material in Claudia’s arsenal. “Tonight” fluxes a bass drum heavy dance beat pulse that goes right for a stunning chorus with all of the elements in place to build up to such a venerable dazzle (spacious power chords on the guitar, plenty of bass in the mix and glittery keyboards). The star of the show is surely Norris’ expressive, high-end vocals that definitely fly high above the music and make all of the right moves where phrasing and melody are concerned. The finale track “Sunny Afternoon” is the complete opposite of “Tonight” and illustrates the deep juxtaposition of styles that Claudia brings to the table. Here various guitar sounds (slide, acoustic, electric) combine into a sort of country rocker that calls to mind Shania Twain’s harder-edged pop standards. The chorus is instantly etched into memory; the song taking a pure power pop turn in these moments when stacked up against the groovier, more rocked-out choruses.
The title is track is also nicely done though it doesn’t quite have as big of a chorus hook as you’d hope for. Each verse moves breezily to the next with light electric guitar coupled to acoustics and simple yet effective bass lines (with drumming to match). Norris works her vocal magic throughout but the chorus mostly just repeats the song-title and could use a little bit stronger musical backing behind it. The album’s big ballad “Marry you” is marred only by some slightly annoying “Whoa-ohs” that are repeated ad nauseam and for lengthy intervals…they just don’t seem to fit what is an otherwise well-performed, well-produced piece that sparkles with piano, acoustic guitars and generally sound vocalizations (Claudia’s singing is truly spectacular in this song aside from the aforementioned nitpick).
Shine won’t win any awards for reinventing the wheel and occasionally the songwriting could use a bit of polish. Still, by pop standards Shine has all of the right ingredients to make a splash and when everything is working Claudia kicks up a good musical sweat that should get bodies moving and people singing along. The sheer variety of the material is enough to render the lesser tracks as enjoyable filler and the better songs as truly entertaining.
8 out of 10 stars.
– Shannon Cowden