Anne-Marie Unhealthy review

Unhealthy review | Chaotic, personality-fuelled pop from Anne-Marie

★★★☆☆
The third album from Anne-Marie, Unhealthy, follows her trend to-date of relatable lyricism – but its pop potency sometimes gets lost amid the chaos.

Over the past decade, Anne-Marie has become one of Britain’s brightest pop stars. In the decade since she dropped her earliest demo in 2013 (which Ed Sheeran then shared on his Twitter) and bagged a job as a touring vocalist for drum n’ bass dons Rudimental in 2014, her own-brand of personality-fuelled pop has racked up billions of streams. As a mark of her success, she recently picked up a BRIT Billion Award, has bagged some big-name collaborations (including 2016’s UK number one ‘Rockabye’ with Clean Bandit and Sean Paul) and taken on a high-profile telly job as a coach on The Voice UK.

Eschewing glossy, boilerplate tunes, she’s loaded her songs with relatability and humour. Her first two records – 2018’s Speak Your Mind and 2021’s Therapy – won over fans and hit the UK top three, albeit with mixed critical reception.

Anne-Marie’s third album, Unhealthy, follows this trend: her brutal honesty and tongue-in-cheek lyrics are evident throughout. Begun in early 2022, it sees Anne-Marie dig into two recent romantic relationships, one that had ended and one that was beginning.

Anne-Marie Unhealthy

Inspired by the narrative element of records like The Streets’ A Grand Don’t Come For Free, Anne-Marie set out to include a cohesive thread sewn into the LP’s infrastructure. It’s a story, she’s explained, about “being with the wrong person, then eventually meeting the right one,” From fracturing romance and breakups to panic-inducing new love and finally being able to relax with somebody else, no emotion is off-limits.

Take ‘Sad Bitch’, an alt-pop earworm that sees Anne-Marie assert, “I just wanna be with my friends / Fucked up getting rich,” over rubbery piano riffs and sparse production, later adding: “Baby it’s so last year / Being a sad bitch.”

On ‘Grudge’, meanwhile, she teases: “My therapist said keep calm and don’t react / And the Bible says love thy enemy and all that / And my friends all say that karma’s gon’ get me back / And I shouldn’t hold a grudge,” before quipping with a grin you practically can hear: “But I wanna.”

The weight of Anne-Marie’s lyricism can often be lost among jarring instrumentals and simplifications. Take ‘Cuckoo’, on which Anne-Marie reflects honestly that “I go a little OTT with the OCD / All my exes say that I’m crazy / I’mma check your phone while you’re half asleep”. But later, she adds: “So before you get in too deep / There’s a couple things you should know about me / I’m cuckoo.” The track comes with jangling tropical-house flecked instrumentals intercut with cuckoo clock sound effects, the weight of the lyrics lost among them.

Anne-Marie

Photo: Justin Sammer

The lyrical throughline doesn’t have an equivalence in the sonics, either, with Unhealthy being victim to rapid gear changes. While Anne-Marie’s signature pop world is broadened to include country, pop-punk, and, on one occasion, a musical sample, some of these sonics are integrated more successfully than others.

Shania Twain adds country credibility to the title track. Still, the hackneyed interpolation of ‘I’d Do Anything’ from Oliver on ‘Obsessed’ feels forced, particularly sandwiched between a slinky earworm (‘Grudge’) and a saccharine, stripped-back ballad (‘Kills Me to Love You’). It’s a common crime of the track-listing on Unhealthy, which pogos between ballads and uptempo numbers, differing pop stylings crashing into each other and not explored fully.

Take the plodding, Bridgerton-inflected pizzicato strings of ‘Irish Goodbye’, which then run into the relentless peppy sounds of ‘Cuckoo’, in turn, followed by the dreary, clichéd Khalid collaboration ‘You & I’ – the resulting impact is a frenzy. And while throughout Unhealthy, Anne-Marie’s personality shines through, offering brief glimpses of pop gold dust, more often than not, it’s lost in the sonic chaos.


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