Rox – Memoirs | Album Review

The debut album from UK sensation Rox Tataei truly lives up to its name. This is indeed a warts-and-all exposé of her romantic history so far.  From regret over the one that got away (‘Heart Ran Dry’) to recounting the unhinged antics of her current beau’s ex-girlfriend- a menace to the happiness of her relationship (hidden track ‘Gallais’), Rox does not hold back.

Such honesty can provoke one of two reactions from the listener-either it isolates us because it’s all a little too personal or it endears us to the artist, as if we’re being let into their confidence.  In this instance it’s a case of the latter, thanks to Rox’ lovely alchemy of memorable melodies and well-crafted lyrics.

This is a pop/soul record with emphatic stress on the ‘pop’.  However this is good, splendidly arranged pop, pop with substance-an increasingly rare occurrence these days.  Several of Memoirs songs could be released as singles; not an easy feat to achieve.

Lyrically, Rox displays sagacity beyond her years; there’s very little in the way of trite, throwaway lines. The poetic astuteness of tracks such as ‘Page Unfolds’, ‘My Baby Left Me’ and ‘Forever Always Wishing’ give rise to a few, ‘Wow, I wish I wrote that’ moments.  Vocally, she is quite the powerhouse too.

It’s reassuring to hear a strong female vocalist from the UK who isn’t going the way of the bland, forgettable pop that Leona Lewis churns out most of the time.  Rox demonstrates that there is an alternative route for young women with powerful voices who have their sights set on mainstream success but don’t wish to specialise in the anodyne ballad.

Miss Tataei is blessed to have a soprano that behaves so consistently throughout its range; her chest voice has a lot of body whilst her falsetto/head voice retains such clarity and nimbleness.  Rox also brings theatricality to her singing that harks back to a time when the likes of Sarah Vaughan and Barbra Streisand were doing the same.  The lyrics tell only half the story; she colours in the rest of the detail with nuance of tone and expressive vocal quirks.

The bleak subject matter of most of Memoirs coats the album in a layer of tristesse that is difficult to shake.  I had to resist the urge to sob on the first few listens of gorgeous ’90s-style heart breaker ‘Oh, My’.  But perhaps it’s this sincerity and openness that will help set Rox apart from some of her peers.  After all, for better or for worse, the likes of Mary J Blige and Amy Winehouse have carved out very successful careers peddling tales of woe so why not Rox?

Still, it might be too early to label her as just another chanteuse of misery; there’s every indication on Memoirs that she could go any direction she chooses.  Rox makes a very strong impression with her debut without it threatening to eclipse everything she does in future; it’s simply a taste of what’s to come.  As she continues to tap into her potential, I for one eagerly await what she’ll do next.

–Tola Ositelu

Memoirs is out now via Rough Trade Records.

Clue yourself up on ROX in our interview:

Privacy Preference Center