Three years after The Saturdays went on an indefinite hiatus, Una Healy has become the first member of the group to launch a solo career with her debut album The Waiting Game. Set to hit the UK charts this Friday, the singer’s first solo release sees her stray slightly from the mainstream pop sound of her old girl band for one that’s more rooted in folk and country.
The album kicks off with ‘Battlelines’, an uptempo number that sets the tone for The Waiting Game nicely. Supported by her backing band, with particular emphasis on the guitar, Una shows that she’s not looking to stick to one genre with her music. The country-pop number is the most anthemic on the album and highlights her ability to sound relevant while still delving into her own style of music.
It is a fairly even split between ballads and uptempo numbers on The Waiting Game, as would be expected from any standard pop album. In fact, there’s a lot about this release that screams stereotypical pop, from the familiar structure of the songs to the reoccurring themes of love and relationships. However, while that may be the case, there are little doses of magic thrown in here and there that make it stand out from the rest.
The final three tracks on the album – ‘Out The Door’, ‘Grow Up Not Old’ and ‘Angel Like You’ – have some of the most beautiful lyrics written by a mainstream artist in recent years. Focusing around motherhood, love and death, the songs take fairly common themes and look at them in unique ways. ‘Out The Door’, for example, is an uptempo number about having to go to work to pay the bills and hating leaving the kids at home. Although fairly upbeat, the simplicity of the track is surprisingly tear-jerking, especially when it alludes to the neverending cycle of her kids having to do the same thing one day when they’re older. Likewise, although ‘Grow Up Not Old’ is about love, it looks at the subject from the eyes of someone wanting to grow up together without aging. It promotes the image of still being teenage sweethearts in your 60s, which is a beautiful thing to imagine.
Other standouts on the album include lead single ‘Stay My Love’ and uptempo tracks ‘Staring At The Moon’ and ‘Alarm Bells’. The former features the album’s only duet – Sam Palladio – and showcases Una’s ability to do a ballad justice. The partnership of the two voices creates a gorgeous harmony throughout the chorus, and Una’s own light vocals flow wonderfully through the verses, adding a layer simple beauty to the track.
The other two tracks are notable for the way in which they differ from the rest of the album. ‘Staring At The Moon’ creates the feeling of a country jamboree, particularly when the bouncy chorus explodes out of nowhere. It creates a joyous atmosphere that gives The Waiting Game a great dose of fun halfway through. ‘Alarm Bells’, on the other hand, is probably the most reminiscent of Una’s time in The Saturdays with it’s synth beat and disco influence. Although the track may not be anything unique in its own right, its inclusion on the album makes a delightful contrast to the country driven nature of the record. Every album needs something for you to groove along to.
Unfortunately for The Waiting Game, not every track is particular memorable. Numbers like ‘All You Ever Need Is Love’, ‘S.O.S.’ and ‘Craving You’ are nice to listen to, but they become easily forgotten when compared to some of the album’s stronger ballads and uptempo songs. When heard with the whole of the record, though, they do make great fillers that sustain the pleasant tone of the whole album.
The final tracks – ‘The Waiting Game’ and ‘Please Don’t Tell Me’ – are both great examples of their own styles. The title track bounces along a clapping beat with bursts of power in the chorus, all sung with a wonderful country twang that merges the pop and country genres masterfully. Over on the ballad front, ‘Please Don’t Tell Me’ proves itself to be one of the album’s most genuine tracks with its sweeping vocals accompanied by dramatic instrumentation. If you needed proof of Una’s capabilities as a soloist, this song gives you just that.
Overall, The Waiting Game makes a lovely addition to any pop fan’s collection of music. While it may not rival the likes of Adele and Emeli Sandé, Una’s debut album is one of the strongest solo efforts to have come from someone who rose to fame as part of a music group. Not since Nadine Coyle’s powerful (but poorly advertised) Insatiable has someone from a UK girl group released something so strong and cohesive. Add to the fact that it explores musical styles not common in the mainstream pop scene and Una is definitely on to a winner with this one.
*header image taken by Teddy Mafia at https://www.flickr.com/photos/90626755@N05/