One of the things I love about the Media Reviews on Flyctory.com is when bands, which have accompanied you in former parts of your life suddenly pop up as an album or EP review again. In this posting, we head to the Baltic states for the comeback album of the legendary Vanilla Ninja. Encore, which has been released on 8th October 2021, is their fifth studio album overall, but comes after a fifteen year hiatus. Here are my thoughts.
Vanilla Ninja – About The Artists
Vanilla Ninja are a pop–rock band from Estonia. They started as a quartet, when the band was founded in 2002. Lenna Kuurmaa and Piret Järvis were the guitarists of the band, Katrin Siska was on the keyboard and Maarja Kivi the bassist. All members were vocalists. In 2004 already, Kivi left the band and has been replaced by Trinu Kivilaan. She also was part of Vanilla Ninja for only one and a half year. However, she came back when Vanilla Ninja reunited in 2020 to record this album, Encore, which is the first long-player since 2006.
While the debut album of Vanilla Ninja, a self-titled release in 2003, just had limited success outside their home country (where it was a chart-topper), the 2004 Traces of Sadness was the continental break-through. For example, the album was Top 5 in Germany and Austria, driven by multiple singles which made it to the charts. Other countries in which the band was popular are Switzerland, Poland and Finland. While their third album Blue Tattoo (2005) had similar success, Love is War (2006) already had lower chart placements outside Estonia, where the band was still booked at the top and had platinum records with all their album releases so far. Vanilla Ninja also represented their country in the Eurovision Song Contest 2005 with Cool Vibes, apart from that, they hat multiple appearances at the Estonian ESC Qualifications.
Vanilla Ninja – Encore – Track by Track
The twelve song album lasts 43 minutes.
1. Gotta Get It Right
Out of the four songs released before the album, Gotta Get It Right was likely the most successful one. This has a simple reason: it sounds so much like Vanilla Ninja. Or more precise: it sounds like the the Estonian band we have in mind (or in our heart) from their early 2000’s recording. Some pop in the verses, some rock in the chorus, melodic recording. 3:25 minutes nostalgic feelings made in Estonia.
2. No Regrets
The angel-alike beginning and harmonic sound of No Regrets make me feel of ABBA – look forward to their comeback album to be released soon. I love these ladies much more if they rock. This song is a nice one and gives quite a bunch of wamth to your heart – but it feels a bit too emotional to me.
3. The Reason Is You
As you see in the music video screenshot, the Estonians returned their worn out white dressed and got their guitars back – much better! The sound of the chorus feels a bit too familiar and the song works with similar structures like the openers – but that also means that The Reason Is You reminds the listener of the good old times, when we already loved this band. Listening with a smile.
4. Driving Through The Night
I’m driving through the night and you won’t find me
I’m driving through red lights to be free
And though my heart is pointing the other way,
I don’t push the brakes
The song almost comes with the touch of a folk pop song. Very easy listen which is making a lovely use of the vocal skills of the quartet. The simplicity of the song is the key factor of success.
Faith is an emotional pop song, which feels to have a bit too much volume on the drumming side. Again, the song is made to be remembered easily – this also leads to a lack of character. I would have loved to have some more smashing, more present songs on the album.
6. I Miss You Like Hell
I miss you like hell
I miss you like crazy
Cuts like a knife
Come and save me
If you still care
If you still dare
Just give me one more chance
The chorus feels a bit like a selection of the “Top 100 verses which made it into successful love songs”. Again, there is a touch of Swedish pop, a touch of schlager. Vanilla Ninja feel to try to get back our attention by emotionalizing us. Might work for a bunch of listeners, some others might rather miss the recordings two ago – like hell.
With over five minutes, Waterfalls is the most extensive listening experience on the album. There is a majestic touch in the song, when the four ladies are additionally supported by a background choir, which come with a Gregorian touch. The powerful voice prevents this song to be a fail. The song would not miss anything in a three minute version.
Just watch out for more
I’m dying inside
My passion is lighting the dark oft the night
I just need an encore
Get back on the floor
I can’t fall asleep
I’m totally hungry for all that I need
I just need an encore
The title track surprises by being a die-hard electronic pop song, which is made for the dance floor. A very different kind of song, which just does not make the cut over the “average song” limit.
The way you is incredible, just unforgettable – it is really getting soppy now. The scrumming guitars feel to be taken from a over-emotional Spanish love song. Definitely, the vocal performance is good, but these ladies feel to have changed quite much during the last fifteen years.
10. The Look In Your Eyes
I am thinking of Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Björn and Benny again. I am sorry. It is just that easy sound of the Scandinavians. Not a bad song, but definitely not what I expected.
11. Say It Loud
Say say it loud
I don’t know what’s all about
Say say it clear
I won’t disturb the atmosphere
Cos all I ever want is all I miss
And all I ever need’s to feel like this
Hey say say it loud
I don’t know what’s all about
The song feels very kitschy again – however, the song becomes more energetic and has a wider sound (even with a slight rock touch) towards the end.
12. It Ain’t You
When the closing track is having one of its few rather powerful moments, you get this Vanilla Ninja feeling. And you feel how talented this band in fact is. Bad luck that this feeling is not constant enough.
Vanilla Ninja – Encore – Spotify
Here is Encore on Spotify:
Vanilla Ninja – Encore – My View
First of all: if you loved the Estonian ladies in the early 2000’s, that does not mean that you like them today. The sound is much softer, more pop, more emotions. Some songs feel too thin, a bit of outdated. Finally, the key positive things about Encore are the great vocal quality of the combo. If you need a very emotional pop album with some rock sprinkles, you might somehow like this set of tracks.
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