ADRIAN THRILLS: How X Factor Ella cleared her head, found her voice

ADRIAN THRILLS: How X Factor Ella cleared her head and found her voice

Ella Henderson: Everything I Didn’t Say (Atlantic)

Verdict: Speaks volumes

Rating:

Stereophonics: Oochya! (Stylus)

Verdict: Crunching rock

Rating:

Bryan Adams: So Happy It Hurts (BMG) 

Verdict: Hackneyed highway songs 

Rating:

Ella Henderson finds herself in an unusual position. 

At an age when many singers are still seeking their first break, the platinum-selling pop star, 26, is launching a comeback after eight years out of the spotlight.

Henderson, who topped the charts with her 2014 single Ghost and debut album Chapter One, has plenty of ground to make up. But Everything I Didn’t Say is a confident step in the right direction. 

She finished sixth on The X Factor in 2012, despite many believing she was that year’s best performer, and released her first album through Simon Cowell’s Syco label. 

Now signed to Atlantic, and mentored by London dance act Rudimental, she cuts a more assured figure.

The past eight years have not been easy. This album was due out in 2016, but it was put on hold while she focused on her emotional well-being. 

Ella Henderson finds herself in an unusual position. At an age when many singers are still seeking their first break, the platinum-selling pop star, 26, is launching a comeback after eight years out of the spotlight

She went home to Tetney, near Grimsby, and saw a therapist. After guesting on hits by Jax Jones and KSI, she began work on self-penned material better suited to her supple, versatile voice.

Calling the new album Everything I Didn’t Say suggests she had previously been holding something back. If that was the case on her generic, ballad-heavy debut, she’s now overcoming her growing pains to assert her credentials as a credible solo act. 

As with Adele’s 30, the album’s running order is important: it chronicles what was clearly a bumpy ride from teenage stardom to adulthood — including ‘gritty bits and proper lows’.

The music jumps around between up-tempo dance tracks, slower songs and a fondness for emotional, modern country in the style of Texan singer Kacey Musgraves. And at almost 50 minutes, it’s a long listen.

At the heart of it, though, is Henderson’s expressive voice and ability to hit tuneful top notes. 

She provides her own vocal backing on country-rocker Emotions, which expresses regret at past mistakes, while the title track finds her wryly lamenting a fading relationship (‘Get the violins out’).

Calling the new album Everything I Didn’t Say suggests she had previously been holding something back. If that was the case on her generic, ballad-heavy debut, she’s now overcoming her growing pains to assert her credentials as a credible solo act

Ugly — ‘tear me apart, ’cause I’m not afraid of my flaws’ — is about being trolled online, after she was secretly photographed on a beach holiday. 

She holds her own on two big duets: Let’s Go Home Together (‘you got bad tattoos and smell like booze’), with Tom Grennan. 

Track of the week 

Lost Track by Haim  

Fresh from their screen roles in Paul Thomas Anderson’s coming-of-age comedy Licorice Pizza, the Haim sisters return to their guitars for their first new song since 2020’s Women In Music Pt. III album. 

The bright but bluesy Lost Track is a slice of vintage Californian pop. 

And piano ballad Cry On Me, in which she and American singer Mikky Ekko play a bickering couple, their ‘tears stacked to the ceiling’.

Inspired by Rudimental, Henderson finds salvation on the dancefloor, and there are nods to Dua Lipa in the retro disco of What About Us and the excellent Good Things Take Time. 

There’s also a happy ending, with Ella celebrating her new relationship with former Olympic swimmer (and Premier League performance coach) Jack Burnell on Northern Lights, a gently strummed lockdown love song.

It’s been a long time coming, but Ella’s Chapter Two really does feel like a fresh start.

Stereophonics were set to mark the 25th anniversary of their debut album Word Gets Around with a second greatest hits collection — until singer Kelly Jones unearthed a cache of unfinished songs that hadn’t been right for the band’s previous album, 2019’s introspective Kind. 

So, instead, the group moved forward . . . albeit with a record that leans heavily on a familiar template of crunchy, fuzztone guitars and anthemic choruses.

Oochya! is the quartet’s noisy rallying cry — ‘let’s have it,’ as Kelly puts it — and the songs here bristle with energy and attitude. 

The Welsh band broke through in the aftermath of Britpop, but their music still owes much to 1970s rock. 

Don’t Know What Ya Got, about feeling nostalgic for an old flame, nods to the Rolling Stones. 

Stereophonics were set to mark the 25th anniversary of their debut album Word Gets Around with a second greatest hits collection — until singer Kelly Jones unearthed a cache of unfinished songs that hadn’t been right for the band’s previous album, 2019’s introspective Kind

The acoustic Seen That Look Before is in throaty thrall to Rod Stewart and Hanging On Your Hinges draws on a love of ZZ Top.

Yes, it’s predictable in places. Running Round My Brain is a banal rocker, and Made A Mess Of Me uses tried and trusted chords. 

But the best moments have a soulful swing far removed from the group’s reputation for meat-and-potatoes rock. There’s even a surprise trumpet solo. 

Bryan Adams also sticks to the styles that made him a star on So Happy It Hurts. Made in lockdown, with Adams playing guitar, keyboards, bass and drums, it’s a straightforward affair, full of songs about cars, bars, blue jeans and baseball cap

Bryan Adams also sticks to the styles that made him a star on So Happy It Hurts. Made in lockdown, with Adams playing guitar, keyboards, bass and drums, it’s a straightforward affair, full of songs about cars, bars, blue jeans and baseball caps. 

The Groover From Vancouver is heading for the open road, though at times it feels like he forgot to pack his originality.

Motoring cliches abound. The admittedly punchy title track finds him stepping on the gas with the radio on. On Kick Ass, he’s greasing his gears.

There’s greater nuance on the yearning, Byrds-like Just Like Me, Just Like You and These Are The Moments That Make Up My Life, a portrait of everyday domestic bliss. But fans of the Canadian’s radio-friendly, blue-collar rock should wait instead for his forthcoming tour.

Ella Henderson starts a UK tour on October 15 (gigsandtours.com). Stereophonics begin their tour on March 18 (ticketmaster.co.uk). Bryan Adams’ tour opens on May 9 (bryanadams.com).

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