With an intriguing bio that takes her from musicals to cruise ships to shopping channels, contemporary crossover soprano Justine Balmer’s debut album Simple Thing is five years in the making. The mix of pop, opera and classical is a seductive one and though the track-listing might seem diverse at first glance – Aerosmith next to Andrew Lloyd Webber, Coldplay rubbing shoulders with Claude Debussy – such is the serene force of Balmer’s voice that she really does make them all feel like they belong together here.
There’s a pleasing sense of balance too, you’d be hard-pressed to tell which genre Balmer prefers. A tender rendition of ‘Fix You’ with fellow crossover artists Blake, is as lushly beautiful as Fauré’s ‘In Paradisum’, the lightness of Dvořák’s ‘Song to the Moon’ matched by the simple purity of ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ – you might not think you need another cover of the Keane track but it positively shimmers under the gorgeous treatment here.
The tender harmonies of ‘Ave Verum’ come as a beautiful surprise and in Pride month, a Kylie Minogue cover surely has to win extra points. ‘Confide in Me’ stands out though as a twist towards the interestingly gothic and with its beat intact, provides a welcome variation in pace. By contrast, the following ‘Titanium’ feels perhaps just a little too pretty, missing that same level of drama.
That said, Simple Thing makes for exceedingly easy and entertaining listening. As at home in the world of pop as it is in classical, it manages to find an entirely satisfactory balance between the two to create a collection of songs that work well together.