When, in the opening title track of her new album, Anastacia claims to be a 'freak of nature' she does seem to have a valid point. After all, she is in the possession of asbestos vocal chords capable of clothes-lining a champion WWF wrestler. Indeed, taking Macy 'Marge' Gray's strangulated emissions out of the equation, this particular young American could well have one of the most recognisable voices in pop today.
Anastacia's second album opens with some incomprehensible pseudo rude-girl drawl, followed by one of her trademark, cheesy 'Owwww's'. It is at this very early stage in the proceedings that one has to make the crucial decision. Either you can receive her album with stony-faced seriousness - in which case it is quite easy to dismiss it as dated, 80s stadium fodder. Or, alternatively, you can lighten up and enjoy what is a fun, upbeat and ultimately camp pop collection.
So, let's start again.
This statuesque beauty's second album opens with a couple of typically robust 'go girl' anthems - 'Freak Of Nature' and her latest single, 'Paid My Dues' - while the third cut ('Overdue Goodbye') slows the pace down a step or two and is certainly one of the standouts. A lush, country-flavoured acoustic arrangement gels effortlessly with Anastacia's dirty, rich vocals to evoke a warm, hickory scented bluesy feel.
To her credit, Anastacia does manage to vary both tempo and mood with considerable skill. Just when you think she's about to grind to an insipid halt (with tracks such as 'You'll Never Be Alone') she snaps out of it with good old fashioned pop rants against the male species ('Why'd You Lie To Me'). Finally, when her potent brew of girl power is beginning to wear you down, there's always the delightfully uplifting S Club-sounding 'Don't Stop (Doin' It)'.
Overall, this is a highly polished, well-penned pop album that is given a much-needed edge by a performer whose voice should be bottled and donated to scientific research.