When Kimberley Walsh announced that she was releasing a solo album, speculation began as to what kind of music she’d record. Despite Girls Aloud’s longer than expected hiatus, Kimberley mostly stayed away from the charts releasing only a collaboration with Aggro Santos, Like U Like, which peaked at number 8 in 2011. Last year she spent much of her time on the stage in Shrek The Musical and recorded a cover of One Vision with Alfie Boe for Team Great Britain. When Girls Aloud announced their reunion it seemed even more unlikely that Kimberley would branch out on her own but during her Strictly Come Dancing stint she confirmed her debut solo album.
Perhaps learning from the varying degrees of success experienced by her Girls Aloud band-mates, Kimberley has chosen to go in a different direction completely embracing her love of musical theatre rather than pop music. Some fans have expressed disappointment over the decision but we didn’t feel all that surprised. In 2008 she performed on the West End as part of The Passions of Girls Aloud where she revealed her desire to pursue a career on the stage.
Centre Stage is a collection of 10 covers with two original tracks and sees Kimberley singing some of the greatest musical theatre songs ever written. The album kicks off with her cover of Randy Crawford’s One Day I’ll Fly Away, which famously appeared in Moulin Rouge. Kimberley puts her own spin on it allowing her husky vocals to slowly build before exploding with power in the song’s second half. She recently performed the track at the National Television Awards and despite many critics slating the performance, we thought she did a fantastic job.
Over the course of Centre Stage it becomes clear that Kimberley has been Girls Aloud’s best-kept secret. On her own she’s finally getting the chance to show what she can do vocally without being over-shadowed by the other girls. On this album she’s made some brave choices and she pulls them off admirably. Singing songs such as Les Miserables’ On My Own and Wicked’s Defying Gravity is no easy thing to do but Kimberley sounds fantastic.
On the piano-led Falling Slowly from Once she teams up with Boyzone star Ronan Keating whilst Wicked star Louise Dearman lends her vocals to I Still Believe from Miss Saigon. Kimberley more than holds her own and when singing with Louise Dearman that’s mighty impressive. She showcases a strong vibrato and packs emotion into her vocals that you don’t get to hear in Girls Aloud songs.
Elsewhere on the record she covers Another Suitcase In Another Hall from Evita, Memory from Cats and As Long As He Needs Me from Oliver. She makes each song her own wrapping her warm husky vocals around the melodies. It feels like your ears are being wrapped in velvet and caressed.
The album’s two original songs fit nicely in with the musical theatre theme. Dream’s Can Learn To Fly is an inspirational ‘reach your dreams’ song whilst album close You First Loved Me is a simple but effective ballad that soon transforms thanks to lush orchestration and Kimberley’s powerful vocal.
Centre Stage is a triumph for Kimberley. Until now, in music terms anyway, she’s always been referred to as ‘that girl from Girls Aloud’ but we’ve known all along she’s much more talented than she’s given credit for. Whilst Cheryl may be topping the charts, Nicola may have the indie-cool, Sarah may grab the headlines and Nadine may have the strongest voice, Kimberley is ready to surprise her fans and win over lots of new ones with the fantastic Centre Stage. This is finally her time to shine.