REVIEW: Emma Hewitt – ‘Burn the Sky Down’
Trance, like all of the popular and overpopulated genres of the world, is a fickle lover. As a singer at the height of your career, your voice caresses the minds of millions of listeners through collaborations with producers on countless tracks. At the lowest point, you are forgotten, another echoed voice over a trance beat. But Aussie Emma Hewitt is far from the lowest point in her career, and rather than aiming for the heights, she is aiming to be the best possible artist she can be, trance singer or other. And if her debut single as a solo artist is any indication, Emma Hewitt’s presence will be a given.
Burn the Sky Down is Emma Hewitt’s first album as a solo artist, although her prior work included the band Missing Hours with her brother. Since her career beginnings, Hewitt has worked with some of the most prolific trance producers including Cosmic Gate, Serge Devant, Dash Berlin, Allure (Tiesto’s alter ego), Gareth Emery, and Ronski Speed. This collection of work has given Hewitt a solid base of appreciation for Armada Music, a Dutch label, to give her the chance to succeed as an artist in her own right, and has allowed her to work with producer Lee Groves (whose production credits include Depeche Mode and Marilyn Manson). Her first step was lead single, “Colours.” Now, “Colours” may confuse trance listeners in its original state, as it is a very atmospheric track, aiming to engage the senses rather than lay siege on them. And trance music, in comparison, is definitely a siege. So in “Colours,” Hewitt’s voice is the star, as it has and always will be. Now let’s get this out of the way, since “Colours” may have you thinking, ‘Hey, this isn’t trance!’ And you’d be right, the majority of Burn the Sky Down could be easily classified as New Age, the worldly melodies and soft beats a far cry from the sweaty, euphoric arena that is trance. It’s but a stone’s throw from calling Hewitt the next Enya, but in her defense, Hewitt’s tracks have far more pop sensibility making the music more akin to Annie Lennox. You won’t find much to dance to, here. But you’ll find some of the most hauntingly beautiful, chillingly-affected music of 2012.
The second single from the album, “Miss You Paradise,” is basically verse two of the song that is Burn the Sky Down. And so the album continues, gaining momentum in parts (“Foolish Boy,” “Still Remember You (Stay Forever),” “This Picture”) while in other parts, it gains edge but keeps the tempo roughly at “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips (“These Days Are Ours,” “Rewind,” “Crucify,” and “Circles,” with 16 Bit Lolitas). In its most compelling moments, Hewitt drops the beat and sings to a melody alone, letting the flux of sounds and chords carry you along. These moments include the opening track, “Burn the Sky Down,” and “Can’t Turn Around Now,” both tracks under two minutes, and “State That I’m In,” at 2 and-a-half. But as remixers have proven over and over, you don’t need the original track to have much length to turn it into a show-stopping electronic monster. Finally, there’s one bonus track to Burn the Sky Down that you can dance to without a remix- “Like Spinning Plates” with Dash Berlin.
The most important part of Burn the Sky Down is the part you don’t hear on the album: the tracks as they are in their most popular format. Take “Colours,” for instance: while the original itself is calm and collected, between Cosmic Gate and Armin Van Buuren, the track becomes an aggressive tour de force. And then there’s Shogun’s stellar remix of “Miss You Paradise” that blew away all expectations of what a remixed Emma Hewitt track could sound like, both thrilling and intense. It’s this aspect of Burn the Sky Down that turns your perceptions on their head. As good as the original tracks are, imagine the possibilities!
Emma Hewitt’s Burn the Sky Down is perhaps one of the best releases of 2012. Not because it’s packed full of ready-to-dance tracks, but because it’s filled to the brim with excellent songwriting and dramatic tension. Hewitt proves herself as one contemporary artistic powerhouse. When it comes to stand outs of the album, it’s hard to pick, mainly because aspects of the album suit depending on what mood you’re in. But at the end of the day, every track is truly exceptional, and truly notable.
Released June 2012 on Armada Music.