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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Review: Margot Blanche - Pages In My Diary

Margot Blanche - Pages In My Diary
2008, Oriole Entertainment

Margot Blanche’s influences are many and varied. Raised in Hong Kong, her website describes her as a French-Filipino NuSoul songstress. She grew up with the sounds of old time jazz on the periphery. Her musical loves gravitated toward pop soul (Whitney, Mariah) and she engaged in classical voice training from the age of nine. What Blanche does more than anything is break down barriers. She has found a way to mesh musical styles you would not think would go well (classic jazz and modern soul/hip hop). While some of this has been done before, it’s not been done Margot Blanche style. Her full-length DIY debut album, Pages In My Diary is revelatory and new. I hope you’re sitting down, and I hope you’re ready to get up and move.

Margot Blanche stands out in the world of popular music. She's part Madonna, part Suicide Girl and part Billie Holliday. Engaging in a stage show that borrows heavily from old-time burlesque, Blanche adds a sense for popular music sounds that are universally popular as well as a voice and composure that speaks of the best singers of the torch era. The music on Pages In My Diary is as changeable and moody as her varied interests might suggest. You're Here opens like a classic jazz standard before morphing into an R&B Slow Jam. Lonely Heart follows the same path, with Blanche's first sung lines emulating the megaphone style of the 1930's. The jazz horns that open the tune mesh with electronic beats in a surprisingly palatable mix of genres. At the heart of all of this is Blanche's voice, which is exceedingly pleasant with just a hint of edge to it.

The material on Pages In My Diary might indicate that Blanche's range is somewhat limited, but nothing could be further from the truth. The limited range displayed here is more stylistic than voice related. Check out some of the footage on her site from live shows to see what I mean. She uses every bit of voice she has to full effect with a silky, soulful sound that will turn heads. Leather & Lace is a classic jazz club style song updated for 2008. This is cutting edge pop music the way Like A Virgin was in 1985. Margot Blanche has that kind of presence on CD. Her vision of mixing classic jazz/nightclub sounds with modern pop is daring and refreshing and works much better than I would have originally thought. Her palpable vocal sensuality will sell an awful lot of records/CDs/downloads for the label that signs her and promotes her properly.

You Don't Know What Love Is takes a classic R&B style tune and laces it with a vulnerable air that weighs on the listener. Other highlights include Beautiful Soul, the 1960's throwback Superloverman (complete with LP background noise), Starry and At The End. At The End is Margot Blanche letting down her guard at the end of an unforgettable performance. Gone are all of the electronic beats and effects, pretensions or character portrayals. This is the singer at her most stripped down and vulnerable. Wow. At The End puts the entirety of Pages In My Diary into perspective.

Margot Blanche is a dynamo. There are many pop performers with talent. There are many pop performers with a shtick or character or public personality they pour themselves into and through. There are even a bunch of folks in the pop universe who can strip all of the pretensions away and just flat out give a great performance. It's not entirely uncommon to find folks who have two of the three above. Triple threats are rare indeed. Margot Blanch is a triple threat. Give Blanche the right support and promotion and you're looking at your next pop megastar. The music business has changed, and the days of the megastar may be behind us, but Margot Blanche is one to watch. Pages In My Diary is required listening, and a Wildy’s World Certified Desert Island Disc.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Margot Blanche at You can currently download tracks from Pages In My Diary for free at Margot Blanche’s website. CD release information will be forthcoming at her website. Blanche is also gigging actively in New York City. From the videos on her webpage the shows are definitely worth a night out.

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