Claudia Norris first broke onto the scene in 2007 when she started uploading her own self-penned and composed songs to Youtube. The videos started gaining popularity and a head of steam which has led the Edmonton (Canada) native to recording three varied EPs across recent years. The latest of these being Shine; an uplifting, upbeat slice of positivity that gleams and glitters with tuneful songs, big choruses and gracious songwriting that should win her some fans in the pop scene… She’s not afraid to mix in flavors of dance, country, soul, etc. to lend each song an individualistic personality that stands on its own two feet.
“Tonight” is the obvious big single appealing to the pop/house crowd with thumping electronic beats, smatterings of computerized vocals, an incessant chorus and enough to rock guitar to create a sweeping, arena-ready number that would go over well if Norris happened to be sharing the stage with Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber or one of the other titans of the pop genre. The sonically pleasing electronica cuts/mashes keep the feet moving and the head bobbing as you dance your way into the night while listening. The title track is a completely different trip than the opener as it adopts a very standard, radio-friendly verse/chorus/verse/chorus formula with lightly rocked out rhythms and guitars acting as a platform for Claudia to launch her vocals skyward into brilliantly crafted hooks/melodies. Unlike “Tonight” this song features no electronica trademarks and avoids auto-tune at all costs with the focus falling on Norris’ soaring voice and knack for reeling in a monster of a good-time chorus. Her voice holds up without any of the digital accoutrements as does her songwriting; the mark of a truly talented artist in the genre. Bringing things down to bit of blue-eyed pop/soul “Marry You” is Claudia’s ode to a boy that she’s fallen in love with and it’s without a doubt the softest, most emotive piece on the EP. She croons breathlessly over a shuffling rhythmic groove, well-placed beats, touching keys and glistening acoustic guitars. Closer “Sunny Afternoon” is a more straightforward number akin to the title track with a very traditional yet solar powered rock/pop/country tune with steel guitar tones, electrics and acoustics dishing out delight over a bopping rhythm section and sultry vocals that deliver some of the EP’s strongest melodies and lyrics.
Shine won’t win an award for originality because in the pop realm, pretty much everything you can think of has been done and done over. Still, Norris has stellar songwriting on her side and a great voice which elevates her above the crowded pack and makes her stick out from all of the clones. The fact that she composes her own tunes is truly an asset of the material as you feel that you really get an insight into Claudia’s mind and not a glimpse into the brain of some studio songwriter. Each track on Shine is unique enough from its counterparts that the variation and dynamics make you want to go back and take another listen or two instead of playing the whole thing once and forgetting about. Overall, Shine lives up to its title and is a bright, hopeful star in a sea of pop banality the world over!
– Scott Wigley