Natasha Bedingfield seems to be one of the more talented pop divas around. On both "Unwritten" and "These Words (I Love You, I Love You)" she stretches her vocals and her hooks to create songs that are ridiculously catchy and really quite pretty. Both those songs are from her 2005 debut album, Unwritten which spans and steals from genres like gospel, hip-hop and electronica. "I Bruise Easily" falls into the cooing don't-hurt-me ballad category, while "Size Matters" is an attempt at humor that falls slightly short (badump-bump!). Overall, Unwritten was not a bad album, it was also not a sad album, which makes this year's Pocketful of Sunshine seem rather redundant.
Pocketful of Sunshine starts off well enough with the bouncy, summery "Put Your Arms Around Me". "That original feeling never went away" is what Bedingfield claims in the lyrics, and it sure seems that way as this song takes you back to the sandy beaches and blasting radios of summer '05. It's on the second song, the title song, that Natasha stumbles a bit. Bedingfield's gifted with a voice that can really make a pop song soar. That's to say, she's far from Aretha, but she's also many steps up from Rihanna. On "Pocketful of Sunshine", Bedingfield settles into a basic R&B pattern that makes her voice sound boring, even with the generously scattered "ohs" that supposedly add flavor and sex-appeal to an otherwise unnecessary song. "Happy" is a huge step in the right direction musically, with an undeniable bass line and Bedingfield happily stretching her vocals. Despite the name, lyrically this song does not seem like one written by a very happy person. It's a laundry-list really, of all the reasons you should be happy, but aren't. The next song - "Love Like This" - is the first single, and it's a nice song. I actually like the song quite a bit, but there's nothing original about the sound or delivery. A little piano here, a few beats there, and everything is groovy. The rest of the songs on the album bounce around a bit. There are uneven patches, like the Fergalicious "Angel" where Natasha stoops to spelling out her title because she has nothing else to say, but overall the album's quite appealing summertime bubblegum music. This brings me to my real question: why wasn't this album released in the summer? I suppose I'll never have an answer, I'll just have to enjoy the sounds I get with snow on the ground.