Didrik set many hearts a flutter around the continent when he performed this year’s hotly tipped Norwegian entry, My Heart Is Yours. Since then, he has kept a relatively low media profile during the recording of this, his debut album Guilty Pleasures.
It would be easy to pigeonhole Didrik Solli-Tangen as a peddler of schmalzy balladry, relying more on looks than substance. There’s no question about his vocal abilities – classically trained at the Barratt Due Music Academy, his voice spans an impressive range.
Compass is the opening track of the album, a very honest, simple and stripped back ballad broaching the subject of despair and love. Flawless vocals, an all important key change and a very slick production ensure that the album gets of to a flying start and is really quite touching. Moving on to Your Song, the pace picks up considerably, as Didrik takes a stab at an upbeat pop number in the mould of A1 or Coldplay. Vocal effects provide the intro, and Didrik impresses with vocal acrobatics, slipping seemingly effortlessy into falsetto. Going down the well worn path of love and relationships, although the song matter may sound banal, Didrik nevertheless manages to convince the listener. A breath of fresh air and extremely uplifting. The string led Daughters tells of the relations between parents and daughters, and the overall impression of this track is a very lush, deep sound picture with percussion and strings. Not as immediate as the first two tracks, but so sweet and a definite grower.
On Nighthawk Diner, guitars give the track an amplified, acoustic feel. Charming lyrics tell of Didrik trying to imagine what life would be like with a certain woman. An unabashed love song, you can’t help but fall for this darling little number. A gem of a track! The title track, Best Kept Secret is a similarly jolly little ditty which can’t fail to put you in a great frame of mind. When Words Won’t Come brings us back into ballad territory, and gives us a beautifully haunting ballad at that. Fair enough, the lyrics do in places border on twee, but the track is still heartfelt and sincere enough to appeal to many.
You sees Didrik enter into crooner mode, not unsimilar to some of Alexander Rybak’s material. A wistful, delightfully old-fashioned ballad where soaring vocals and tinkling ivories combine perfectly with big band parts and without a doubt my favourite track on the album. Released carries on in the ballad vein, yet managing to veer clear of becoming monotonous, with piano and snare drums providing the song with an injection of drama and with vocals delivered with pathos, you really can’t go wrong.
Next To You is reminiscent of a lullaby, extremely soothing as Didrik caresses his sweetheart with a gentle melody and sugary lyrics where he promises undying love. Not exactly challenging, it still has a lot to offer and is easy on the ear. Cold Words has a distinct melancholic feel, as he sings of dissappointment and uncertainty towards the end of a relationship. Vocally stunning, this for me is one of the standout tracks on the album. Guilty Pleasures is brought to a fitting end by this year’s Norwegian Eurovision entry My Heart Is Yours, which admittedly for me is actually he weakest song on the album.
The track listing of Guilty Pleasures is as follows:
Best Kept Secret
When Words Won’t Come
Next To You
My Heart Is Yours
Having not had any great expectations of Didrik’s studio debut, it has to be said that the album brought with it many an element of surprise. It is obvious that a great deal of time and thought have gone into selecting song material that best suits and showcases Didrik’s stunning voice. I was also concerned that the album would be a tad too ballad laden and saccharine, providing me with a natural sleep remedy, but my fears were unfounded as many of the ballads were indeed extremely varied. Elegant and timless are words that would best describe this competent debut. Congratulations, Didrik, you’ve managed to win me over and I’m sure that the album will prove to be a great commercial success.