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Celeste - Not Your Muse - Album Review

By Alice Browne

The last year has been massive for Celeste, winning both the BBC Music Sound of 2020 and Brits’ Rising Star awards, landing coveted spots on the John Lewis Christmas advert and the Sky Sports coverage of the English Premier League, and even lending vocals to the original soundtrack of Disney Pixar’s Soul. Like many, however, this success has been bittersweet, unable to complete the media circuit and festival appearances that come as standard practice for all emerging talent. Despite these obstacles, the London-based singer has still managed to make her mark as one of the freshest faces of British soul.

Her eagerly anticipated debut album Not Your Muse is a complex ode to love and independence, in all their pain and triumph. ‘[It’s] the power I found when I felt powerless’ Celeste notes, ‘I have allowed myself to arrive at a place where I feel empowered, fiercely wide-eyed and fulfilled’. Though this power is felt in her songwriting, it’s at its most unmistakable in the depth of her voice. Her soaring vocals turn her often delicate lyrics into something truly breathtaking.

String-charged tracks like ‘Beloved’ provide Not Your Muse with the old soul energy we’ve come to expect from Celeste following her 2019 EP Compilation 1.1, reminiscent of icons such as Nina Simone and Dinah Washington. Though this strong jazz focus prevails, a large portion of the album is also entrenched in pop. Its polished and melodic, with recent singles ‘Love is Back’ and ‘Stop This Flame’ leaning heavily into a radio-ready sound. In being likened to the likes of Adele and Amy Winehouse, it’s only natural that these instant hits are to be embraced, but Celeste is a star in her own right. Whilst these safe, soulful leading tracks are promising, particularly for a debut, it leaves some desire for more experimentation in other areas of her album, which may come with time.

The album is at its best in its tenderness, with tracks such as ‘Strange’, ‘A Kiss’ and ‘Some Goodbyes Come With Hellos’ really emphasising her show-stealing, hazy vocals and the raw emotion that bleeds into them. Not Your Muse feels like only a sign of things to come for Celeste, a strong record to showcase an even stronger talent. Something that we’ll be turning to time and time again.

Watch the video for Love Is Back here:

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