Not a great start, but there is hope.
'The Change' is London singer-songwriter Zein Simone's debut EP from. Raised by her Jamaican mother Ms. Simone listened to jazz, blues and soul from an early age, and began training as a classical vocalist at the age of 11. Before leaving secondary school she sung lead vocals in a jazz band, although sadly the name of this band cannot be found in her press literature or webpage. Influenced by a wide range of styles, including rock and folk as well as the aforementioned genres, Zein Simone's work cannot be accused of sameness.
Opening piece 'Again' showcases Zein Simone's vocal talent perfectly, her voice flawlessly smooth throughout. It is accompanied by classical guitar and Spanish-influenced precession, and at first sounds promising; closer inspection however reveals that this is a rather formulaic pop song rather than a singer-songwriter creation, albeit performed with more panache that your average pop ballad. Unfortunately however her lyrics do not have more panache that a pop song– 'I want to be with you oh again / And I need to be near to you again / So would you lie with me and lie to me?', undermining the song's credibility somewhat.
Title track 'The Change' employs more classical guitar, along with strings and a quieter but certainly present drum beat. By far the strongest track on the album, in it Zein employs a wide range of vocal styles and its style is reminiscent of the Cocteau Twins or Tori Amos circa 'From The Choirgirl Hotel'. The track is ethereal yet emotional and, unlike many of the other tracks on the EP, never becomes repetitive or dull.
'Wasn't 4U' is all one would expect from a track with text speak in its title, complete with dodgy nonsensical background rapping and scratching noises. It's nothing but a so-cheesy-it-smells pop song - something you'd expect to be an album track for a manufactured girl band. Final track 'Good Hurt' is from the same gene pool, only minus the dodgy rapping (which is a shame, as it added a humour element to the track and rendered 'Wasn't 4U' marginally less boring than this effort).
'Behind Closed Doors' is the EP's most surprising song – a pop-rock epic almost six minutes long, complete with loud guitar-driven choruses and (fake) sounds of anguish disguised as vocals. It fails to launch however, as for all it's angry lyrics and quiet/loud/quiet/loud musical patterns it remains far too polished and unemotional to sound anything like a genuine rock sound. In 'Wish I Knew' Ms. Simone's soul and hip-hop influences are most apparent. The genre suits her vocal style far more than pop or rock does, but sadly the song itself isn't very exciting. 'Wish I Knew' is better than many of the EP's tracks for the bare fact that it isn't so annoying and repetitive that you instinctively reach for the off button, but there are many similar artists working in this genre and unfortunately for Zein, doing a better job of it.
'The Change' proves that Zein Simone has talent, but sadly this is only proven by its title track. Having a wide range of influences usually benefits an artist, but here it seems to have rendered Ms. Simone confused as to how to sound - and thus happy to make cheap pop songs rather than anything meaningful. All is not lost however, as Zein clearly has a beautiful voice and, by the look of her myspace page, plenty of ambition – she just needs to channel it more specifically before she releases another record.