ALBUM REVIEW: Cruel Youth – +30mg

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Media trials in the 21st century are the norm of the day. When a hapless victim is nailed in the cross hairs of social media’s jury wing, the public persecution is akin to the inquisition of the middle ages. Ask Teddy Sinclair aka Natalia Kills. The lead vocalist of Cruel Youth – the band she formed with husband Willy Moon – has been there and done that. Despite the ostracism by people worldwide after the debacle at New Zealand’s edition of the X Factor in 2015, the newly baptised Teddy Sinclair did rather well. Partnering with Madonna and Rihanna on chart topping albums Rebel Heart and ANTi, Natalia or Teddy as she prefers to be addressed now had a rather productive year. Now that she’d redeemed herself with chart topping numbers for others, a 7 track EP is the result of studio sessions with Willy Moon, a whole lot of Ronettes, introspection and solitude.

With little or no notice, Natalia Kills reinvented herself as Cruel Youth and introduced her music to the world with tracks like Mr. Watson and Diamond Days. Released for free on Soundcloud with Hatefuck, a recent release, the trio of songs presented a sombre, wiser, mournful, and wistful Teddy. Bearing the scars of her disgraceful fall from grace, the songs transformed her lowest moments in life to musical moments of wonder. Mr. Watson, her first release since her exit from NZ, takes her dependence on drugs to personal lows and musical highs. From naming the track off a pill, to belting it out with panache, the soulful tunes ruled Spotify for some time, even being remixed and used at fashion shows. If that didn’t redeem her, the aptly titled Diamond Days debuted to much admiration.

Diamond Days borrows the sorrow from Mr. Watson but, drops the personal lows to a whole new level. Aptly capturing the long lost days of public affection that she shared with Moon as a successful pop star, Diamond Days lyrically and vocally captures Teddy’s state of mind, giving listeners more than one reason to fall in love with Cruel Youth. Far from being a writer for pop phenomenon like Madonna and Rihanna, Teddy showed the world that she is quite capable of writing soulful tracks and delivering them. There is no doubt about the London born, US based artist’s vocal talents, but that she was as skilled as the hits she crafted, came as a surprise to anyone who only knew her based off the publicity stunt on a TV show.

Alexis Texas might seem odd for a track off +30mg and as the first track with vocals off the EP, Teddy’s adult star namesake’s track has soulful vocals paired with falsetto choruses and synthesised refrains. Sprinkled with sexual content, it is a love song inspired by husband Moon’s dates to clubs in Paris and what made her tie the knot with him just a few months after they met. A dark spin on bubblegum pop, Alexis Texas, flips dating, love and relationships on its head and drops hints of Teddy’s metaphors.

Vocal acrobatics return on I Don’t Love You, a pop rock track that marries drugs, pain, apathy and being unloved. What starts as pop quickly changes to rock with the chorus, with the signature chord playing through the verses cleverly interjected by drumbeats that keep up with the original tone of album. The shift in the notes and overall composition play up the Teddy’s vocals ending the track on a monologue.

With its spacey tune and measured beats, Florida Blues plays with the gospel that Teddy’s voice can muster at this point and pushes the envelope on what the singer-songwriter can do on an EP. One of +30mg’s best, Florida Blues signals Teddy’s budding skills at fashioning songs that layer vocal samples a la Lana Del Rey and still steering the song with that singular voice.

Hatefuck another spectacularly sad song on love gone violent is the third release off the EP. Sung in a hazy, pained state of mind, the song paints the picture of the strained yet parasitic love. Whether the song mirrors Teddy’s relationship with Moon or her relationship with the music industry is unknown but Hatefuck is yet another sample of what the artist has been up to since her sudden disappearance off the scene.

Love them or hate them, you can’t really ignore Cruel Youth. If there is anything that pop stars like Madonna and Rihanna may have taught the eloquent artist, it’d be reinvention. As pop chameleons and women who’ve turned personal gaffes and tragedies to moments in pop culture, Madonna and Rihanna certainly inspired Teddy Sinclair’s classic comeback, +30mg. It’s been a year and a half since the internet turned on the artist for her acerbic comments and the witch hunt could’ve pushed her in to oblivion. Instead, the talented vocalist battled loneliness and pain to present an honest collection of tracks that subtly portray a skilled artist, whose work does all the talking. Give it a spin for the sheer effort and promise Natalia Kills aka Teddy Sinclair has in store for fans of the singer’s reinvented image.

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