Published Jul 06, 2016Alexandra Lilah Denton's brand of bedroom pop came seemingly fully formed on her startlingly magnificent 2014 debut single as Shura, "Touch." A demure yet straightforward track, it captured listeners' attention with a sticky-sweet melody and the repetition of a painfully honest refrain: "There's a love between us still but something's changed and I don't know why."
On the UK-based artist's debut LP, Nothing's Real, Denton's faithful to the sound of her already-released songs, coating lyrics confronting crushes and insecurities in glossy synthesizers. She doesn't necessarily transcend her previous singles — they're arguably the best tracks on this album — but she hones in nicely on the sound she's comfortable and confident performing.
Employing breathy vocals and glittering analogue synths galore, fans of Janet Jackson and Madonna — two of Shura's self-proclaimed influences — will be enamoured by this album. Standout "What's It Gonna Be" (co-produced by pop aficionado Greg Kurstin) and the title track especially bring to mind early '80s Madge singles and "How Will I Know"-era Whitney Houston.
The tracks aren't lacking musically — the shimmer and shine of Shura's electro-pop is consistently pleasurable here — but beneath the layers of soaring melodies and glossy synths are lyrics that leave one somewhat cold. Her vulnerability is her strength on this album, demonstrated on "2shy" and "Indecision," so when repetitive and sparse lyrics become secondary to the music on a track like "Make It Up," listeners are left feeling like there's more she's not saying.
A neon sugar rush that occasionally fizzles out with filler tracks, Nothing's Real ultimately leaves a lasting impression. More importantly though, Shura's debut shows real promise for the future; with plenty of room to grow, she's an artist with potential in the ever-expanding world of pop music — one in which her voice can expand, too. (Universal)