I know a lot of people might try to ignore Junior Eurovision, but the 2009 winner, Ralf Mackenbach, might make that difficult in the next few years. Yes, he’s still in that strange no man’s land that will make you think Bieber, but this self-titled slice of musical action shows a performer on the cusp of maturity.
The cover is spectacular – I’d never think it was possible to have someone look just like Dima Bilan and Richard Hammond in one picture, but Ralf has burned that image into my memory now with his smile, pose and bouncy hair.
It’s an interesting mix of bubblegum pop, summer breezy dance numbers, and switching between English and Dutch in the singing. This is an album that’s happy to chop and change through the playlist, and it is the better for it.
I also love that the last track on the album, the Ralf Medley, showcases the hit songs from the album and blends them into a four-minute mix of the entire album, like some twisted Comedy Improv game. If it was me I would have run this as the opening track and treated it like an old-fashioned orchestral Overture.
I’m not sure it was a smart move to do a cover of Alexander Rybak’s Fairytale on the album though. It’s not Ralf’s style, and by showing a smaller vocal range, it’s doing him no favours. Best stick to the stuff you’re good at, Ralf.
Let’s get to the nub of the issue – his Eurovision song, because Click Clack is a tricky one. It’s the song that arguably put him on the map by winning JESC, but at the same time it’s a song written in 2009 when Mackenbach was 13. When you play it next to some of the other songs in the album, there’s more maturity, complexity and depth on show than the song from the Ukrainian stage.
That lends this album a touch of hit or miss about it. When he can land a song emotionally and couple it up with the lyrics and composition to go with it, I can’t see anything stopping Mackenbach having a stomper of a summer hit, and nowhere is that clearer than Piano and Guitar. It’s infectious, has the structure you need for a dance floor filler, a driving beat to get your blood flowing, and a big shouty chorus line…
Yes it’s a classic schlager stomper, but one that’s likely to pass a lot of us by, simply because of that JESC tag. This is an album that’s joyous simply because of the simplicity on offer. Can I suggest you put aside any worries about it being a kids album and give it spin?
Ralf! by Ralf Mackenbach is published by EMI (Netherlands), and available on iTunes.