Rebecca Ferguson has managed to achieve remarkable success yet stay pretty much out of the spotlight. Unlike many of her fellow X Factor contestants, Rebecca’s route to success after her stint on the show has focused purely on the music rather than becoming tabloid fodder. Her debut album Heaven was released in 2011 and has sold over 600,000 copies in the UK as well as peaking at number 23 in the US on the Billboard chart. Now two years after the release of that album, Ferguson is back with new album Freedom.
Releasing a new album in December is always a brave move and often means a record label has huge faith in an artist. After listening through Freedom a few times it’s not hard to see why Ferguson and her label wanted to release the album in the busy Christmas market. Freedom, like heaven before it, is a classy affair where the music speaks for itself. Ferguson has co-written every track bar one, writing with songwriters including Eg White, Toby Gad, Mr Hudson and Aqualung to name a few.
Lead single I Hope is the perfect bridge from Heaven to Freedom. The mid-tempo track has a strong beat as Ferguson sings of letting go of her anger and hurt following the breakdown of a relationship. The personal nature of the lyrics is similar to the songs on Heaven but the music is injected with a burst of gospel on the chorus which raises it up. The song is a grower and it takes a few listens to fully understand its genius.
Across Freedom the tempo is varied but the one thing that is consistent is Ferguson’s distinctive and soulful voice. The moment we heard it for the first time on The X Factor we knew she’d be a big star and as she’s growing in confidence she’s exploring every facet of her voice. Fake Smile, a song about rising above hurt and pain, shows a gruffer side to her voice as she serves up impressive conviction with her delivery. Beautiful Design is one of the more up-tempo moments and one of Ferguson’s strongest vocals on the record.
There’s a definite influence from Massive Attack on the rather epic We’ll Be Fine as well as the dramatic instrumentation of the powerful All That I’ve Got. Ferguson pulls it all back on the gorgeous I Choose You which was produced by Aqualung and finds the songstress defiantly living her life the way she wants regardless of the attempt of outside pressures. John Legend appears on the piano-laden Bridges and his voice works really well with Ferguson’s with both of them sounding gorgeous.
The standout moments come on the two tracks that contain the title of the album in them. My Freedom is a bit of a middle-finger salute and could be aimed at her former management company who Ferguson parted from over the way they treated her. Album closer, and title track proper, Freedom is a gentle piano-ballad that celebrates Ferguson’s new-found freedom in her life and career.
Rebecca Ferguson is without a doubt the classiest artist The X Factor has ever produced. She’s proof that you can still retain artistic integrity and credibility despite going through the publicity machine and pressures of the singing competition. She doesn’t need publicity stunts, controversy or high profile relationships to give her success. Freedom is a bold statement from an artist that is going nowhere for the foreseeable future and emphasises quality. Ferguson is a class act and her success is destined to continue for years to come.