Sahara Beck: Panacea

A gift can be a heavy burden to carry. Sahara Beck is gifted – the 19-year-old has a wonderfully smoky, elastic voice, and she sings like she has all the time and not a care in the world. She’s also a promising songwriter, with a natural, formidable stage presence. In short, she was born to do what she does, and her talent has been recognised early, with awards, radio exposure and high-profile shows.

It all raises expectations ahead of Beck’s second album, Panacea (her first was recorded when she was just 14, with two EPs following in 2013 and 2015) – and you can sense the burden. It’s a good album, well written, brilliantly played and produced, flawed by the artist’s self-consciousness. Instead of winning your heart, Beck wants to blow your mind.

This tendency to show off appears early, with the first single Here It Comes. The stark blues riff at the song’s centre is weighed down with a kitchen-sink arrangement that’s topped off by a wailing coda reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s interminable Great Gig In The Sky. It’s formally impressive – and it will have festival crowds roaring in approval whenever it’s performed live. It’s also completely superfluous.

Partly it’s a curse of the age we live in, of melismatic singing on talent shows, where spectacle is everything and understatement is undervalued.… Read more..

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