Olivia Broadfield:Eyes Wide Open

Olivia Broadfield
Eyes Wide Open
(Vagrant)

I know the stereotype is the British chicks are the clever ones whilst American ones are, well… our latest pop wonder is Miley Cyrus. We’ve been fine with this because while theirs are brainy and original, we’re easily distracted by airbrushing and a little red-bright collagen, all puckered for YouTube (Miley has 120 million views and counting). Safe to say Brit-pop-folk-electronica Imogen Heap’s hair is still a bit mussed, but the homely genius is in Oxford doing brain-blazing social-media-meets-music-composition experiments on the TED stage—the new paradigm of digital culture.

All that to say, stereotypes are meant to be broken, and here’s one: Olivia Broadfield. She’s British too, but her first US release Eyes Wide Open (the Brit copy came out 2007) isn’t ground-breaking. And it’s definitely not cerebral. This is why Perez Hilton, who made the unfortunate comparison between Heap and Broadfield on his blog this summer, isn’t really either. But as long as I can calm down and realize that not everyone from over the pond can be bloody brilliant, there’s a lot to praise on Eyes Wide Open.

The favorite track is “Don’t Cry,” featured on “The Real World” (nice job, producers). But honestly, the new fame and new label (Vagrant) didn’t get the genre tag—electro-pop—quite right. It’s not that the album doesn’t carry light loops and some down-tempo programming. But it’s really nothing outside of most mainstream pop these days (acoustic guitar, cello and glockenspiel make standard appearances) and nobody would mistake this stuff for dance appeal—picture Dido just a couple years younger.

The strength of most of these tracks is the easy pop balance, and Broadfield’s voice is painted front and center—clean and available. No songs on the album seem to feature more than a few lines of lyrics—and most repeat over and over (“Don’t Let Go” repeats, well, “don’t let go” 18 times in 20 seconds), but smoothed out vocals and the absence of a driving kick keeps things undemanding. In fact, the laid-back tracks are, as they say, “drinkable,”—perfect for a late afternoon study session or calming down that those intelligent sputterings you get after spinning Imogen.