There’s really something special about Erika’s voice. When I first heard of her through her first single “An Angel’s Secret” I was mesmerised. Although upon A wonderfully talented vocalist, Erika is as versatile as her voice is unique. With piercing, explosive high notes, a charmingly husky baritone and a sweet, breathy falsetto, it seems that there’s nothing this girl can’t do, rendering her an incredible asset to a music scene swamped by celebrities trained in the art of ‘fake versatility’. But her debut album “I am Erika” instead sends mixed signals and exploits this versatility.
I don’t think its any fault of hers specifically; but in promoting her as a ‘water-type girl’ when 70% of the album is upbeat R&B or pop-rock tracks just made me even more confused. When she released her first single “An Angel’s Secret” featuring Xiao Yu, I could certainly see the connection between this song and the ‘water’ theme of her album. Hoping to hear more of this mellow, clarifying R&B sound, I purchased her album but was surprised to hear that there was not one other song which drew connotations with this ‘water’ theme. Instead, most of them were what would be best described as ‘filler tracks’; songs which seemed to be meant for no one type of artist, but just generic pop tracks. I am saying this not in the sense that it is badly produced or badly arranged, but in the sense that I feel these songs are unmemorable, with very boring themes and with some not suited for her voice at all. Inf act upon closer analysis turns out most of these songs are cover tracks of English songs which makes more sense. Nevertheless, cover songs or not there was a real issue in my opinion with song choice that rendered this album overall quite disappointing to me.
An exception to this was her first and second singles “An Angel’s Secret” and “Round and Round”. The interesting thing about these two tracks were that although did not require an extensive vocal range, they were especially personable and had a unique feel which suited Erika’s voice. And to me, what’s most important is that the sound is authentic and natural. I’d rather have a personable, simple track over a high-voltage lifeless technical masterpiece any day. “An Angel’s Secret” arranged by R&B maestro Xiaoyu was sophisticated in its serene piano arrangement, simple but enough to create a languid atmosphere for Erika’s voice to flow and emote as best it could. Probably the best presentation of her vocals on the album. With a melody that had so many nuances and Erika incorporating Xiaoyu’s unique singing technique into her rendition it was one groovy track that really tugged on the heartstrings.
“Round and round” I really liked because I felt it was a song that fit Erika’s sunny personality perfectly. Upbeat and with an electronic element which gives the acoustic arrangement a much needed twist, the song was dynamic and easy on the ear. Erika’s throaty vocals were warm and ever so inviting, and props on handling such hefty vocal technique in the chorus with such aplomb. She actually reminds me a lot of Tanya Chua in her early days, as they have quite similar textures in their voices; both mesmerising, feminine but not just your everyday girl next door sound.
Most of the other songs like I said were pretty generic, “Next Chapter” had a catchy melody but sounded like a drama theme song, the last track “Give it up”, a heavy metal-influenced rock song sounded very similar to a song that A-Lin sang once called “Forget it” and the sixth track “Us” showed off Erika’s vocal range, but her piercing high notes worked against her and made the song really hard to digest. Although some songs were catchy, there were not catchy enough for me to remember the melody after the song was over, which basically means to me that there is a lot more room for injecting Erika’s personality into the songs than just by piling a couple of high-voltage songs together and hoping that one of them will hit. Although she does have quite a bubbly personality, I think seeing as the album is called ‘I am Erika’ they should have tried to cater for more underlying aspects of her personality rather than just chucking a pile of high voltage tracks together and calling it an album.
Nevertheless, the only thing that kept me listening was a constant fascination with her voice. It has so many textures to it and if this album does one thing right, it’s to show off Erika’s versatility as a singer. But versatility should never be a compromise for the authenticity of an artist. The reason I’m so disappointed with this album is because I really had high hopes for it (you guys must know by now that I mostly review albums with the idea that they're going to be relatively good), and seeing that Erika’s potential wasn’t able to be reached just really saddens me. But because I believe in her so much, I hope to see more original and authentic works coming from her in her next album. Still waiting!