During last year’s X Factor final it seemed pretty clear that Fleur East had it in the bag didn’t it? I, along with a lot of the nation, was pretty shocked when the eventual winner was announced as Ben Haenow. Not to take anything away from Ben but Fleur proved that she could compete with the best female artists out there (and likely wipe the floor with them judging from THAT Uptown Funk performance). Nearly 12 months on and both Ben and Fleur are promoting their debut releases and it seems to me that the real winner really was Fleur after all. Following her show-stopping performance of debut single Sax on The X Factor, Fleur has delivered her debut album Love, Sax & Flashbacks.
Whereas Ben has gone for middle of the road blandness, Fleur has been given material that really suits both her voice and her personality. Sax was a very calculated effort to recreate Uptown Funk and it’s paid off hugely. Despite the obvious similarities between the two, there’s no doubt that Sax is one of the best pop songs this year and Fleur delivers it with such conviction that you can’t help but be swept up in the energy of the track. With its catchy hook, sing-a-long moments and big beats Sax deserves to be the hit it has been, and so much more.
Love, Sax & Flashbacks is a surprisingly confident debut from Fleur. When I think back to how meek and mild she was until midway through the live shows, it’s clear that the singer has come a long way in a short time. This debut effort drips with confidence, sass and plenty of energy as Fleur moves through a variety of genres taking inspiration from the 70s, 80s and 90s. After the uptempo Sax things move to midtempo R&B pop on the cheeky Breakfast, one of several tracks to feature Fleur’s rapping skills.
For the most part Love, Sax & Flashbacks keeps things uptempo. The funky hip-hop of Love Me or Leave Me Alone sees Fleur singing and rapping telling a lover to make up his mind, Tears Will Dry takes things to the club, Like That is the catchiest song that Beyonce has never recorded, and Know Your Name takes a reggae-lite beat witching things up.
Elsewhere on the record Fleur borrows Donna Summer’s ‘beep beep’ moment from Bad Boys on the 70s funk of Over Getting Over, name checks Tina Turner on the bombastic Kitchen, and borrows some 80s disco for the catchy Gold Watch, which could easily be Sax’s sequel. The highlight on the record is the slinky and seductive Paris. It shows a completely different side to Fleur and is one of the more soulful moments on an otherwise fairly in-your-face record.
The deluxe edition of the album comes to a close with Fleur’s now iconic live performance of Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk and her cover of the Alicia Keys hit Girl on Fire. I’m glad Uptown Funk was included on the album as it was the point where X Factor viewers started to see Fleur as a real contender for pop stardom.
When it comes to really great debut albums from X Factor contestants, Fleur is up there with the best of them. Not since Leona Lewis’ debut effort Spirit has an album by an X Factor contestant got us so excited. More consistent than Alexandra Burke’s debut Overcome and packing more punch than Little Mix’s DNA, Fleur has delivered one of the best albums in X Factor history and I’m confident this is the beginning of huge things for the rising star.