CD Review: REAL, Natasha Barnes
Natasha Barnes is a remarkable talent. After breaking onto the London theatre scene in the original London production of the award-winning Spring Awakening in 2009, she has performed in a large number of musicals. However, it wasn't until April 2016 when she was truly brought to a wider audience's attention.
Barnes was understudying Fanny Brice in Funny Girl - a role which Sheridan Smith had so successfully made her own since its debut at the end of the previous year. Due to Smith taking some time off from the show, Barnes stepped into the role and wowed critics and audiences alike. From then, her feet haven't touched the ground. She went on to share the role with Smith on the UK tour of Funny Girl and last month released her debut album, Real.
What's lovely about the CD is that it is in no way overproduced, so the lyrics are at the forefront. The tracks are a mixture of originals and new versions of known songs. The album opens with "You Don't Mean It", which has a great Motown vibe and showcases Barnes's sassy side.
All of the songs have superb piano melodies and bass lines, but particularly in "Sun, Moon and Stars". Barnes could be compared respectfully to some of the best female singers from the 1960s era, but the first single from the album, "Supermodel", could be by the sensational Paloma Faith.
Unlike the huge belty numbers we are used to hearing Barnes perform in Funny Girl, the stripped-back vocals certainly show another side to her, which is equally as powerful. Her head voice can be heard particularly well on "Dollar Signs" and "Home", and even on the final track of the album, "People" from Funny Girl - a much more relaxed version than the musical production arrangement.
Probably the most impactful number on the CD is "The Only Exception", originally sung by Paramore. This is a brave song to attempt, as the version many people know is so fantastic. However, Barnes excels herself here with exemplary vocals and a great deal of emotion.
Real is the perfect showcase for a star.
Natasha Barnes's album Real is out now and available to buy from most major music retailers.