Singer Brenna Whitaker is the first artist that veteran producer David Foster has agreed to produce since Michael Bublé and so, yes, you get a female version of Mr. Bublé, complete with big-sounding orchestral productions and horns and strings arranged by Chris Walden.
At times, singer Caro Emerald shines through like on the opening track “Black And Gold”, where Brenna’s voice is almost drowned though by a huge wave of brass. The old Eddy Arnold song “Misty Blue” (originally recorded in 1967), later covered by Joe Simon and Dorothy Moore (who took it to Number One on the Billboard charts in 1976) is pure nostalgia but I can’t see or rather hear anything spectacular here – it seems that her voice is pretty powerful and strong, but the production work doesn’t really help I guess. Best example is the Disney-like “It’s A Good Day”, the old Peggy Lee standard that singer Cyril Aimée recently covered in a sensitive and original manner. Here, it degenerates into a pseudo-neo-swing plastic fodder that is hard to bear.
Lesley Gore‘s 1964 hymn “You Don’t Own Me” faces the same problems: Brenna easily manages to get through the song, but everything has been said already. There is no real sparkle here. Brenna, who is from Kansas City and now lives in Los Angeles after spending a few years in New York, also covers the Ray Charles love song “My Heart Cries For You” (1964) which she handles beautifully and with much grace and sensitivity. It seems the heartbreak ballads suit her best.
There is a song written by herself and producer Foster together with producer and arranger Jochem van der Saag (also responsible for the “sound design” – says it all) and Maureen McDonald called “When I’m Gone”, a trite pop tune which doesn’t do anything and enhances the innocuousness. The Leiber/Stoller composition “I Can’t Hear A Word You Say” is another retro swing pleaser and “It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green” from Sesame Street is one of the better performances here where her voice really soars. (I prefer Vanessa Rubin‘s version, though).
Brenna, who has a steady gig at the W Hotel in L.A. and who had Stevie Wonder sitting in, is buried again on “Love Back”, a song that was written by Julia Michaels, Lindy Robbins and Christopher Braide (the latter also writes for Britney Spears) and which could have come from the Eurovision Song Contest finals. It also fails to gain any momentum. The extremely corny work on “Saronaya” with its really trashy production (trying to sound “classy” when in the end it’s just kitsch) doesn’t help either and the two Burt Bacharach/Hal David songs she covers sum up the double-edged problem here: the ballad “A House Is Not A Home” is very nice, with no over-the-top gimmicks, sung without any bravado, convincingly, but “Anyone Who Had A Heart” is pretty unexciting.
There must be something in her live performances then. To be witnessed on a four-date German tour:
11/23 Berlin, Frannz Club
11/24 Hamburg, Grünspan
11/25 Cologne, Luxor
11/26 Munich, Strom