British/Jamaican/Nigerian singer-songwriter Bianca Rose has recently released her debut album No Fear Here after writing and composing music for the best part of a decade. In 2007 she self-released a debut EP ‘Truth and Tiny Tragedies’, but decided that a after a decade of continuous work with other artists, it was time to focus on music of her own and release an album.
It would appear that time spent behind the scenes may have given Rose a bit of stage fright. No Fear Here boasts an artist that has untapped potential, and it feels like on most of the songs she is holding back. It’s all a matter of passion; Rose undeniably has it — or why else would she give her all in her music and the music of others? The passion doesn’t shine through in her voice, however, mostly because there are risks that No Fear Here could have taken but ultimately didn’t. Is the album a nice listen? Yes. It is nice, but it is also safe.
Plucky guitar strings and a husky tone on ‘Hidden’ make for an enjoyable listen with lyrics that talk about having more beneath the surface. Nonetheless, a problem that plagues the album still remains: there seems to be a disconnect between Rose’s voice and the production. The track even tries to compensate for this, starting off folksy and ultimately swelling to a jazzy number.
Rose seems more constrained than controlled, which is a bit of a let down considering it’s easy to hear raw talent in her voice. On songs like ‘Eagles,’ when Rose croons things like “There are many uncharted lands that I am born to pursue,” she seems to hesitate on the last word. It walks the line between a stylistic choice and being an audible doubt in her own talents. Had she been less pitch-perfect and let her voice go raw on the ends of lines like that, there’d be less polish but more passion.
‘Wall Paper Painting’ shines with inventive imagery and lyrics that truly paint a picture. The production couples nicely with Rose’s voice, which still sounds restrained in parts but without fault. The pensive ‘When It’s Gone’ debates the meanings of life and looking back on the past.
Rose teams up with Mobo nominated Cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson for ‘Because of Love,’ the album’s arguably most minimal track. It’s nice to have a visual accompany the song (which you can watch below,) because the track feels otherwise forgettable.
“I Know Who Holds Tomorrow” livens things up a little bit, with Rose’s vocals sounding a bit more passionate and featuring a toe-tapping production. “You’re Beautiful” encourages the listener to come out of hiding and showcase their beauty. Rose’s soft nature works on tracks like this, and careful production works to her advantage. On the bridge of “You’re Beautiful,” a spark begins to ignite of Rose letting go and pushing her voice outside of its comfort zone, and it sounds sublime. This is the passion the entire album should have been imbued with.
It seems odd that an album titled No Fear Here seems to be full of trepidation. Without the instrumentals, these songs are just spoken poems; had they been sung with a raw passion that was willing to take more risks, they’d be all the better for it.