Engaging, scattershot follow-up to engaging, scattershot debut
Carving out a niche in pop electronica is like raising a banner to say, “License these songs!” Thanks to TV and film, artists like Imogen Heap, Kate Havnevik and Jem are heard constantly, but recognized far less. So, for music supervisors, Jem’s latest album Down To Earth is every bit as soundtrack-friendly as her 2004 debut Finally Woken. But for the rest of us, it’s every bit as uneven as that bracing debut. For each infectious groove—like the combustible banjo funk of “Crazy” or the Latin-flavored “I Want You To...”—there’s a tired trip-hop beat (“Keep On Walking”) or a treacly MOR ballad (“Got It Good”). Lyrical clunkers like “becoming a bitch is not what I got into music for” (“I Always Knew”) and “I’ve got brains and a hot body too” (“Crazy”) induce winces, though the Welsh singer’s cool alto almost sells it. But when Jem’s good—as with throwback dance track “Aciiid!” and the beautiful piano and strings of “You Will Make It”—she’s very good. Your willingness to forgive the misfires may indeed depend on the (inevitable) accompanying onscreen visual.