One of the disadvantages of being a British pop music fan living in a different country is that sometimes you have to play catch-up with the social context of some chart entries. For example, every year there is at least one novelty charity single where I haven’t heard of someone featured on the track, and yet it’s a top five smash. Such was also the case with Fyfe Dangerfield’s recent Top 10 UK hit “She’s Always a Woman”, featured in a John Lewis TV advert. Besides the fact that I’m not even familiar with the department store, I had never heard of Fyfe, who was also a member of Guillemots, a group whose sole song I knew prior was “Get Over It”.
Despite how much separation there has been of music from mainstream media in the US recently (just look at the pitiful music coverage in the current issue of Entertainment Weekly if you don’t believe it), there are occasionally powerful moments of music and TV meeting that are undeniable. I remember the overwhelming emotion that took me over as I watched the final scene of the final episode of Six Feet Under, or the perfection of using Dirty Vegas’ “Days Go By” for a car commercial shot at night. Such is the power of Fyfe’s version of the Billy Joel classic “She’s Always a Woman”. And before you even think about trashing Mr Joel, please know that I was born and raised in New York State. Respect.
Although “Woman” will always be first and foremost a Billy Joel song, there’s something in Fyfe’s delivery and tone that sounds genuine and authentic to me. To take a song as iconic as “Woman” and to instantly own it is an ability that not many artists can do once, let alone multiple times. If you are wondering if Fyfe is capable of doing it more than once, check out his take on “Call the Shots” from Girls Aloud, which he has been performing live recently.
So he can do covers, but can he carry a whole CD? The answer is absolutely yes. His US debut Fly Yellow Moon is a mix of moody ballads and happy upbeat tracks that draw influences from all over the place. You can hear the 60s in the harmonies on “So Brand New” and the 80s in the drum machine-driven “Any Direction”, which begs the question “does there need to be a musical cohesion to make a solid album”? For me, the answer is “maybe”. While I really enjoy the music on Fly Yellow Moon, I can play it straight through or on shuffle and still feel the same disconnect between tracks. So it’s not Dark Side of the Moon…big deal. The music is solid, and Fyfe has a strong, emotive vocal throughout. I was immediately drawn to “She Needs Me”, as it is very reminiscent of James Morrison, but “When You Walk In the Room” has an irresistible joy to it, and “Barricades” is a gorgeous ballad that reminds me of some classic 70s sound that makes brooding feel appealing. Sadly, “She’s Always a Woman” is not on the US release, but maybe a department store chain in the US can buy the rights for a commercial, and another hit might be born. Whether or not “Woman” see a release, Fyfe deserves a shot at winning over the US.