COLE PHOENIX – STONE WOMAN
This Australian-born artist is difficult to pin down. Cole Phoenix is one of those rare individuals whose creative scope seems to know no bounds. An actor, screenwriter, novelist, director, producer and singer-songwriter, Cole’s new single Stone Womanseems to contain a crystallisation of all these skills in one three-minute impressive effusion.
The track begins with a modest-sounding house-style dance piano, quickly following the organ flourishes and morphing into an all-out retro groove once the band kicks in. Cole’s voice starts in earnest, the cinematic equivalent of which would be a story’s preamble, introducing the character, setting the scene. And just like any good filmic technique, persuasion is subtle, steeped in the sympathetic nuances of the protagonist’s inner life. ‘My heart’s been frozen, frozen inside, let me show you why,’ Cole sings.
The listener, like the audience under a theatrical spell, is already hooked. And this is before the chorus revs its metaphoric engine into full flight. ‘I’m a stone woman, I don’t need.’ Pop songs with embedded messages are tricky things to pull off. This song manages to avoid these difficulties due to the poise and intimacy of Cole’s voice, first and foremost, and then by the melodic structure which remains unfluctuating, hovering around certain notes, steadfast and even-keeled without billowing out into overdramatic expression.
The production itself is never used as scaffolding to hammer the listener into submission but simply doubles up on Cole’s resolute assertions, a reachable and identifiable emotional platform from which the listener can gain strength without necessarily having their aural sensibilities subjugated. Of course, this all works beneath the layers of what’s coming out of the speakers, via the icing of jazz-funk guitar lines, the encircling background vocal lines and the dynamic breakdown before the end chorus.
The influence of the past is clearly on show here too but these attributes are also harnessed, adding to the song rather than keeping it tethered to any sentimental signpost. Sure there are certain intonations in the vocal performance that remind one of some of the classic pop divas of another era, the Dusty Springfields, the Carole Kings or early Olivia Newton-John but a certain edge in Cole’s timbre puts her in another class, is dressed in a sheen of contemporary fortitude which an artist can only reflect unsuspectingly, as a result of living in their particular time, their musical era, their now.
The take home from Stone Woman is that this is an entertaining, infectious tune but one which is very much steeped in the now: self-empowerment, and a woman’s self-empowerment to be more precise.
Is there a more urgent and subject-worthy issue today?
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