Canadian artist Kiesa Rae Ellestad aka Kiesza arrived in the UK in a blaze of hype earlier this year. Her debut single Hideaway shot straight to number 1 and is one of the biggest songs of the year. The 90s vibe of the song and the impressive music video that featured a one-take choreographed routine hit the right chord and launched Kiesza not only in the UK but globally. She followed that hit up with Top 5 smash Giant in My Heart, which wasn’t a million miles away from the sound of Hideaway. Now Kiesza is showing us what she’s really capable of with the release of her debut major label album Sound of a Woman.
The huge success of Hideaway has caused many critics to write Kiesza off as a one-hit wonder. It’s not hard to say why people would say that, especially as Hideaway’s follow-up singles Giant in My Heart and No Enemiesz sound very similar. It’s a shame really that the label decided to go with those two songs as singles because actually Sound of a Woman features a surprising amount of variety that we weren’t expecting. There is much more to Kiesza than just the 90s-influenced dance stylings of the three singles we’ve heard so far.
Kiesza has co-written every single track on Sound of a Woman bar one, a cover of Haddaway’s What Is Love. Predictably the album opens with Hideaway before moving on to the familiar beats of No Enemiesz. It’s from that point on that the album gets really interesting. Losin’ My Mind featuring Mick Jenkins still features the 90s vibe but moves from the house rhythms of the first two songs and jumps right into hip-hop and R&B. To say the shift is unexpected is an understatement but it’s one of many surprises the album has to offer.
The electro-R&B of the sensual So Deep restrains Kiesza’s powerful voice utilising it in a way that mesmerises and surprises whilst Bad Thing featuring Joey Bada$$ delivers an Aaliyah like jam with off-kilter beats and again a very different vocal from Kiesza. Who knew she was this versatile?
Elsewhere on the album What Is Love, a cover of the Haddaway classic, transforms the song into a heartfelt piano ballad, Sound of a Woman is a belting power-ballad, and Piano brings to mind the hypnotic beats of FKA Twigs albeit with a more mainstream feel. The album closes with piano ballad Cut Me Loose which serves to showcase Kiesza as the singer-songwriter she is away from the beats.
Our favourite moment comes on the club jam The Love. Sure it’s not a million miles away from Hideaway but there’s something so retro about the track that you won’t be able to get it out of your head. Kiesza’s ‘ooo ooo’ hook is memorable and the euphoric beats mean it’ll be destined for the clubs for months to come.
At the centre of the album is Kiesza’s voice, which to some people is the equivalent to Marmite. She can go from whispered hush to powerful, guttural belt often within the same sentence. Whilst it may not be to everyone’s taste, we love it and she packs a remarkable amount of feeling and passion into every word that leaves her lips.
To say Sound of a Woman is a surprise would be a complete understatement. Anyone expecting an album full of Hideaway sound-alikes will be disappointed. We do think Kiesza has been done a disservice with the single choices and we’d like more people to hear how versatile she is. The R&B/hip-hop cuts in particular hint at what album two might sound like. Don’t judge Kiesza by what you’ve heard so far, check out Sound of a Woman and you might just find it’s one of the finest pop albums of the year.