An enjoyably varied, highly accomplished album from the Azerbaijan-born singer.
Mike Diver 2011
Publicity proclaiming a new album to be perfect for Mother’s Day is typically a signifier that the set in question is worth precisely zero seconds of the average listener’s time. But sometimes one or two well-timed releases buck convention, presenting fare that will last well beyond spring’s parental gift-fest – all the way to Father’s Day in the summer, at least.
Wonder is one such exception. That it’s a single-artist album rather than a compilation of slushy sing-alongs is an immediate clue that it might offer more than fleeting entertainment courtesy of a few recognisable hits. But Emin Agalarov – a fine vocalist born in the Azerbaijan capital Baku, here taking his first steps towards international recognition following relocation to London in 2010 – is quite clearly a better bet for longevity than most new pop sorts on the top 40 block. And he’s quite unafraid to play with different styles – anyone expecting 12 tracks in the mould of breakthrough single Obvious might be disappointed.
They shouldn’t be, of course – variety is the spice of life, and plenty of living has gone into the making of Wonder, this being the artist’s fifth album in total. Whether Emin himself has influenced the individual song structures or not – all the originals here are co-writes – doesn’t massively matter, since he puts everything into the country swing of Tell Me You’ll Be Mine, the pulsating electro-pop of Falling (if Friendly Fires put it out, the critical community would be falling over itself to blog about its charms), and the frenetic, if rather cheesy, beats of One Last Dance.
Elsewhere, You Don’t Even Know is co-written by Wayne Hector, responsible for JLS’s Brit Award-winning Beat Again, and sounds like a brilliant Duran Duran track the 80s forgot. Hold You in My Arms is another number featuring a country-pop vibe, and while lyrically predictable is sweet of sentiment and sincere of delivery (think Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game with an extra layer of studio gloss). Throughout, Emin’s commitment can’t be questioned, and his versatility is impressive.
Naturally, there are perfunctory ballads. But while some are best summarised as serviceable, the quality never drops to the album’s overall detriment. A surprisingly accomplished, albeit very mixed, assortment of slow-working earworms, Wonder is one to file beside Take That’s Progress as an album for mum that the coolest of kids can secretly enjoy, too.