One day, when we’re all reminiscing about the X Factor’s legacy, we’ll no doubt ask each other: where were you when you heard the words ‘I like pugs’? We knew it was coming, mind you. That typical singing contest sleight of hand, the endearing eccentric who happens to knock our socks off by singing like nothing we’ve heard before. Italy’s Andrea Faustini was this year’s Susan Boyle – our NewBo, if you will – and throughout the course of the X Factor we all fell for that predictable journey once again.
That Faustini has come from such a staid beginning puts his debut album Kelly – unsure if this is based on Rowland, Clarkson, or Maloney – into a little bit of perspective. It’s the type of tick-box, family-friendly soul-pop album we’ve come to expect from that show’s alumni, with zero risks and so much artificial sheen that you could probably knee-slide over it.
Take the opening piano-led start of It’ll All End In Tears, which bursts into an over-orchestrated chorus as if Faustini himself is soundtracking some talent show victory. Or the title track that plods along with brass that’s as welcome as a KKK gatecrasher at Finsbury Park mosque. But the worst offenders as always are the ballads, schmaltzy crap like You Pulled Me Through that deserve to be relegated to the Sharon Osbourne years of X Factor history (and never be seen again).
It’s not entirely awful, though. Evaporate is quietly endearing with its simple melody and adequate use of Faustini’s lungs, and The River paints a decent picture of what the man can do. But it’s the overwrought attempts to turn Faustini into Sam Smith, the misguided attempts at chart-friendly profundity that let him down. What we need is the playful eccentricity of the man who thought nothing of wearing a pug-faced jumper on national television, because Kelly has a personality just as nondescript as its name.
Kelly by Andrea Faustini can be ordered here.