Album Reviews

Yuna – Yuna

on May 09, 2012, 7:57am
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In a 2009 Q&A with Malaysian website Voize, singer-songwriter Yuna described her sound as “a cross between Coldplay and Mary Poppins.” This was apparently said with neither guile nor guilt, and, to be sure, it’s not an inaccurate assessment. The thing is, it’s impossible to imagine a world in which such an amalgamation is a good thing.

Since 2006, Yuna has been making pop music in Malaysia, attracting plenty of fans, including the US-based management team that signed her, landed her a record deal via Fader, and is now attempting to translate that into success stateside. Now, Malaysian pop stars — or, really, any Asian pop stars, for that matter — haven’t had a successful track record here, but that’s often been ascribed to language barriers or stylistic incompatibilities (and, no, the fact that K-Pop is a thing doesn’t negate any of this). Yuna, however, makes music that is not only sung in English, but also manages to embody the most anodyne and accessible aspects of Western adult contemporary pop.

With a lilting, childlike voice that resembles that of the Sundays’ Harriet Wheeler–but with less strength or personality–and a preference for simplistic musical arrangements that are pleasant in a shopping-at-the-Gap kind of way, Yuna attempts to evoke a gentle, adult-indie sensibility, but she wound up creating a wisp of an album that’s ultimately insubstantial.

A more forceful singer could have effectively balanced the muted swing-and-sway of “See You Go” or the jazzy, ukelele-backed swoon of “Bad Day” with a delivery that imparted some emotional strength on these somnambulant arrangements. Contrarily, when given a beefier, more complex backing–such as on the Massive Attack-quoting slow-burn of “Lullabies”–Yuna’s whisper of a voice doesn’t even help paint a sonic picture.

While her backstory may certainly be compelling, Yuna’s music is not. It’s far from awful, but it’s equally far from interesting, muddling about in that dull netherworld of music that sounds good while you’re waiting for your coffee, but is forgotten as soon as you walk out of the cafe.

Essential Tracks: “Lullabies”

7 comments

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Davidlloydknight
May 21, 2012 at 1:59 am

a bit harsh / as i find her vocals to be the BEST thing about all these songs.  you can’t deny the loveliness of ‘tourist’.  admittedly the production is more to my liking on her malaysian releases.  but this album def lays the groundwork for more memorable music from yuna.

Melo Milo
May 16, 2012 at 3:54 am

this is a solid US debut by yuna & the fader team. i LOVE all her english songs. her quality? is how she translate a life story into catchy melody and beautiful penned lyrics that make you connect to it in an instant such as “decorate”, “fading flower”, “favourite thing”,”remember my name”, “live your live” just to name a few. as foreign artiste who collaborate with US producer, shes lucky the final songs that get into the album are gems. all of it. Pharell could give her a bad song but he didnt, the melody for “live your life” is soo Yuna with a dose of international appeal. love all the songs, cant stop listening to it. my least favourite if i have to pick,would only be “bad idea” (which mr fergusion somehow love it more than i do ^_^ )the rest of the tracks? are spectacular and lovable songs that will keep you listening again and again.

SimplyGGG
May 11, 2012 at 2:11 pm

respects for your non-preference of Yuna, seems that you have been listening Yuna’s songs in a hurry… “Bad Day” (???). I would give her album 4.5/5. Thoroughly enjoyed it while driving.

Ary
May 9, 2012 at 10:52 am

Excuse me Mr. Ferguson, how would you explain me having to listen to “Lullabies” on loop for hours?

goodbye20thcentury
May 9, 2012 at 10:37 pm

Cant say i disagree with the reviewer. she went on the safe bland pop move. but maybe thats the whole idea, to move units.  I think her Malay Malaysian album is much better

Ary
May 10, 2012 at 4:41 am

Who are you?

Maercaestro
May 10, 2012 at 6:46 am

many of her songs are in english if you want to know

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