Gabrielle starts as she was to go on: a voice apparently soaked in personality singing songs with a total absence of it. Gabrielle’s throaty, worldly tone marks her out as this year’s version of that recurring chimera, the Great British Soul Hope. The GBSH – last seen on Popular in the form of Lisa Stansfield – tends to play out in a broadly similar way each time. A girl, or guy, or group with good voices and the best intentions enjoys early success, but the toxic mix of acclaim and dull material does for them.

In the case of “Dreams”, Gabrielle is halfway there already. The production is reassuringly professional, very close to the kind of powerpoint soul the Lighthouse Family would serve up later in the 90s. I think it’s the mix of strings and acoustic guitars that turns me off – two well-worn signifiers of “classy” in British pop, but they don’t play well together: the union has an inescapable beigeifying power. In fact the most interesting thing about the song is that it’s trying terribly hard for legal reasons not to be “Fast Car”. Once you learn that the original “Dreams” was built around a Chapman sample it’s impossible not to hear it, and hard not to wonder if the lack of clearance castrated the track. As for the lyrics, this isn’t strictly that other 90s curse, the motivational hit – but Gabrielle sells it like it is.

Score: 4

[Logged in users can award their own score]