Ella Henderson - Everything I Didn’t Say review: we’re all rooting for her

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 (Matt Pearson)
(Matt Pearson)

In late 2016, Ella Henderson wrote on Instagram that she had finished making her second album. Here it is. “Now I know good things take time,” she sings on Take Time, one of a few new songs that seems to reference the reasons for the wilderness.

Something must have been seriously amiss for the 26-year-old from Lincolnshire to fail to capitalise on a spectacular first go around the block. At just 16 she was a favourite to win The X Factor in 2012, coming sixth behind eventual winner James Arthur but scoring a record deal with Simon Cowell’s Syco label all the same. Both her bombastic debut single, Ghost, and her debut album, Chapter One, went to number one, with Ghost also achieving platinum sales in the US.

Then, very little. In 2018 word came that she had parted company with Syco. Of that original version of the second album, she said: “I was so lost in terms of who I was as a person that I wasn’t ready to release it.” In comeback interviews she has detailed experiences of severe anxiety, feeling unable to leave her house and being taken to hospital after a panic attack in Ikea.

The opening song here makes no attempt to gloss over her struggles. It’s called Emotions and is catchy in a sad way. “I’m so sick of my emotions,” she sings. “It’s okay not to be okay.” Hopefully, the causes of her long absence have allowed her to return in a self-care climate where this is one of the main sentiments of pop music – see also Mabel’s OK (Anxiety Anthem), Marshmello & Demi Lovato’s OK Not to Be OK and a fair bit of Anne-Marie’s 2021 album, Therapy. The world is reassessing the way it treated Britney’s breakdown, and even Justin Bieber shared mental health resources beneath the video for his cry-for-help single, Lonely.

Henderson embraces her flaws on Ugly, and looks on the bright side again when she gives a country pop feel to Thank You for the Hell. The I-Will-Survive feel is enhanced by her still mighty voice, which towers over anthems such as Brave and Cry On Me. The evidence of vulnerability is in the words, not the power of the delivery. Whether her mature pop sound does enough to carve out her own space in crowded territory is another matter, but plenty of people will be rooting for her to succeed again.

(Major Toms/Asylum)

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