I was very excited to get my hands on Conchita‘s eponymous debut album, but soon my excitement turned to disappointment. As an outspoken fan of the bearded lady — I even grew a beard in her honour during my stay in Vienna — I wanted to get an insight into the amazing person that is the Eurovision 2014 winner, but what I got was a collection of more of the same that she’d gotten me used to. Which is okay, but I had hoped for so much more.
Just as the physical CD has a long-haired Conchita on the cover and the inside photos show her mainly with short hair, I got the feeling that I didn’t get what I bargained for. In our interview with her, Conchita herself admits that she did not want to do an album to appease her producers, but an album full of songs that she’d like to listen to. Basically what we get is an insight into her musical taste — but not into Conchita herself.
She does say at some point that “there is the Cher song and the Celine Dion song and the Shirley Bassey song,” etc. Yes, “Firestorm” is an obvious nod to Cher and is a floor-stomping disco anthem. And yes, it’s amazing and perfectly produced and it sounds like it’s been lifted from one of Cher’s better albums. But therein lies the problem: almost the entire album sounds like a collection of covers and tributes to other singers rather than an introduction to Conchita herself. It’s as if the Queen of Austria is too shy to show her own face and has chosen to put on several masks throughout the record. This also makes Conchita very uneven.
And yes, the album is a bit heavy on inspirational songs that speak of defeating your demons either inside or outside and standing up straight – or, erm, gay. From “You Are Unstoppable” (my personal favourite) to “Heroes” and “Rise Like a Phoenix”, most of Conchita’s songs seem to be LGBT anthems, which is alright of course, but we would have liked to hear something new from Conchita on her debut album. It all gets a bit repetitive after a while.
The one exception is “Pure”, a gorgeous ballad that shows us a glimpse into Conchita’s soul and indeed perhaps even what it might mean to be Thomas Neuwirth, the man behind the bearded lady. The lyrics go, “I’m walking past windows / Reflections of someone like me / But I don’t recognize what I see.” They’re utterly beautiful and very personal and this is the stuff that I had hoped Conchita would be made of, but alas, it’s just one song.
All this points to the process that lead to making the record: Conchita received 300 tracks to choose from, and most of the ones she selected do not represent her person, but her persona. If Conchita were a songwriter, perhaps then we’d be getting an insight into her soul, but until then we have to settle for a gilded façade. Ironically, on the last song on the album, “Other Side of Me,” the singer declares, “I just wanted you to know the other side of me / I wanna show you what I’m made of / You’re gonna see where I’m coming from,” but I’m afraid she failed.
All in all, if y’all want to hear more of the same that Conchita has gotten you used to ever since she released “That’s What I Am”, her debut album is perfect for you. It’s brilliantly produced and you will have a blast putting “Firestorm” on and dancing like nobody’s watching. Not to mention enjoying her fantastic voice throughout, perhaps the real gem of the record. But if you wanted more, if you hoped to hear something new from the Queen of Austria or if you wanted to get to know her better, I’m afraid that Conchita won’t help much.