Katie Melua Takes A New Angle on Love in Album No.8
“Maybe I dreamt itMaybe I Dreamt It
You showed me freedom courage for all
where time was plenty and no one feared the stars would fall
Took my heart and lifted it
to a light in the sky
said a song had needed me.”
“It used to really feel like we were high flyingYour Longing is Gone
you could say our days were too good to be true
I loved it when you showed me that inside you were dying
like I had to answer that pull from you
and then the leaves changed shades and up they flew.”
Going Through Changes
Katie Melua has a gift for lyricism and composition, and her latest record Album No. 8 is no exception. It’s as if each track is a page from a poetry notebook. The verses are compact yet rich, each word carefully chosen to signify a particular emotion or evoke an image. They are brought to life by her dreamy voice and the gorgeous accompaniment of the Georgian Philharmonic Orchestra, whom she collaborated with on the album.
Melua was born in Georgia and moved to the UK when she was a child. Like Norah Jones, her music style is jazzy and soothing. During her 15 years of making music she has found enormous success: she has gone platinum countless times, and every single one of her albums has made it to the top ten list on UK album charts.
Album No. 8 is a lovely soundtrack for autumn because it is mature, graceful, and a bit bewitching. Like the changing leaves of fall this album too marks a change for Melua: a transition to a period of newfound singleness, as she recently separated from her husband of seven years, and also a period of artistic autonomy, as she is no longer with the producer whom she worked with on her first six albums.
Her last two albums— In Winter and Album No. 8— have therefore been a learning process about finding her path and defining the artist she wants to be in the face of this new creative freedom. In creating Album No. 8, she worked with composer Leo Abrahams, who served as both collaborator and producer.
Love and Home in Album No.8
In order to reconnect with her artistic purpose, Melua went back to her home country of Georgia. By getting in touch with its approach to making music, she gained perspective and wove this Georgian influence into her latest album. One of the tracks, Heading Home, for instance, is a sweet song about remembering the place you came from. Blending her Georgian roots with her English roots in her music is especially significant for Melua since Georgia is going through a cultural revival of its own after its difficult Soviet past.
“I think we’ve given love too much airtime
…Oh turn it down
Too much love is all around.”Airtime
In addition to the idea of home, this album also explores passion and memory and love. In an interview Melua explained that she wanted to examine different sides of love apart from the grand romantic variety. While in the past she has written songs about fairy tale loves, right now she is interested in showing that it is not the end of the world when love fades because sometimes people and their expectations change.
Despite her treatment of the unglamorous parts of love, it’s not necessarily a melancholy album; it is more so reflective and accepting, for though she is hurt she seems to be at peace with all that she has been through.
In the opening track, A Love Like That, Melua sings about a passionate love that melts and burns and dissolves and is therefore too difficult to last. It is an enticing beginning to the album, with a slightly upbeat sound despite the question posed about what happens after love goes.
Your Longing is Gone is also a very strong track about love. The lyrics are exquisite, and she sings that since “your longing is gone / I’m gonna leave with the morning dew.” Her voice swells with the luxurious orchestrations to create an absolutely lovely listening experience.
“I’ve got a list of places where I’ll find my freedom
you could see me somewhere not thinking of you
well maybe it’s because I gave you too much of what you were needing
but the real reasons are fading and shading in the blue
and then the sea grew dark and up it flew
Your longing is goneYour Longing is Gone
it was sweet like a summer sky
your longing is gone
I just got used to it being all mine
On a slightly different note, Leaving The Mountain shows off Melua’s lyrical genius. It is about the power of storytelling and imagination and land; it is mystic and poetic and illuminated with sumptuous instrumentals. The narrative elements of her lyrics are just as apparent in English Manner, where she paints scenes with striking images and emotionally-packed phrases that are extremely expressive while remaining succinct.
“I watched as the whiteness melted away
Our driver liked talking, with the hills in his eyes
and he mentioned a forest buried in ice
He wanted to go and show it off glistening
and it all came alive in our listening
I could hear crisp Edelweiss
Just in the words that rang in my mind”Leaving the Mountain
Vinyls and Packaging
Melua’s mellow voice is suited for vinyl. So suited, in fact, that the ideal listening experience would be on a rainy day with a cup of coffee and a warm blanket, her voice floating off a crackly record player. Perhaps Melua has the same idea, because her latest album— like its precedents— is available on vinyl. Taking the time to create physical products is important for her. While she loves that people can instantly access music on streaming services, she is a traditionalist as well and wants people to have the choice to purchase a physical product made with care.
During the coronavirus confinement last spring photographer Rosie Matheson mailed Melua a film camera, and she spent a few days learning how to shoot film before taking the Album No. 8 cover photo. She explained that the process of taking her own photograph was fascinating because she normally feels a bit awkward when having her photo taken, but when she did it herself she felt relaxed and in tune.
Perhaps this photo, taken in a mirror by Melua herself, is a nice way to view Album No. 8 as a whole: a do-it-yourself learning process, a reflective work, a portrait of a woman pondering her past but looking to the future.