Well, Simon Cowell wasn’t kidding when he told Paul Potts that he was going to make an album. It was June 17th when the former mobile phone salesman won Britain’s Got Talent by singing opera, melting just about everyone who saw him on TV or YouTube in the process (including myself). His album came out July 31st; that’s about six weeks after he won the competition, or maybe one week in the studio plus five weeks’ marketing lead time. The US release of the album occurred last week, and I downloaded it on the strength of his YouTube appearances.
The album is ominously entitled One Chance, presumably referring to his once in a lifetime shot that he took to win the competition. But in a real sense this is the make or break for Paul Potts the career singer. So what did he and Sony bring to the table?
My first impression is: this recording positions Paul in the pop-classical world, not the operatic world. If he wants to get to the Met, this recording doesn’t show that path. On the other hand, if he wants to sell a boatload of records, fill arenas, and appear with orchestras like the Boston Pops, then he’s definitely on the right track.
I have to assume, given the short timeframes, that Sony had more say over the material than Paul did, which perhaps explains the Italian language covers of “Time to Say Goodbye” and “You Raise Me Up,” the Spanish version of “My Way,” and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s execrable “Music of the Night.” Of course, the desire to have him “cross over” to the pop audience explains it too. Some of these are a little limp; my one thought after hearing “My Way” is that it is a mercy they didn’t ask him to sing “Wind Beneath My Wings” too.
But other cuts on the album—his make-or-break “Nessun Dorma,” the surprisingly effective Italian version of “Everybody Hurts,” “Caruso,” and the US-only bonus track “O Holy Night”—show promise in the arrangement and in the passion of his delivery. He is clearly a lyric tenor with strength rather than a true dramatic tenor, but his voice carries across multiple dynamic levels and octaves with relatively little strain. He is a little shy on one or two high notes, but given the compressed recording schedule this is perhaps to be expected.
I hope to goodness for Paul’s sake that this album does great things. It is currently #10 in Amazon’s overall music sales and #1 in Opera and Vocal and in Classical, so one can project that this might actually get Paul the exposure he deserves—and another recording session where he can get into some meatier material.