Saturday, October 11, 2008

Asalah - Noss Hala

After the massive success of Hayati (2006) and Sawaha Galbi (2007), Asalah returned this year with another highly-anticipated album. Many new fans raved about the change of style, but diehard fans (like this listener) are underwhelmed to say the least. The CD opens with its first single, Wala Dari, an upbeat, already successful pop song that melds oud with Nsync-esque beats. Sadly, the album declines from there. Kan Wahm is a slow ballad, but not the good oriental kind that Asalah always hits a homerun with. Instead, the sleepy chorus brings the Spice Girls' Too Much to mind, which is definitely not a good thing. Ah Men Ainah picks up the pace, letting Asalah stretch her vocal muscles a bit, and passes with uninteresting arrangement. Etfarrag Ala Nafsak is the sort of song Asalah excels in, but forcing bongos and triangles on such an oriental song is ridiculous. Ba'ah Tabi'i Alaya gets more of the mediocre arrangement, and adds awkward percussion too, but the album picks up after this one. Aw'at is composed by Ramy Sabry, who is on Tarek Alarian's label, but it gets much better treatment than its stablemates, with more interesting strings and less awkwardness. Yesmahouli El Kel, penned by Siham Sha'sha' and composed by Jean-Marie Riachi, was talked about months before it's release and has already been queued as the next single. The song, like all of the songs Siham writes, is lyrically-focused, but Riachi manages to hold his own with upbeat violins, kanun, and ney. As she has done for the past decade, Asalah explores a new style here, after succeeding with jazz in 2006. Noss Hala is classically-influenced, and feels like a grand film or Broadway score. With so many regulars absent, it isn't hard to see how Asalah went wrong with this album. Closing with two great songs is hardly a victory, but Asalah never completely disappoints, and there's always next year.


1. Wala Dari
2. Kan Wahm
3. Ah Men Ainah
4. Etfarrag Ala Nafsak
5. Ba'ah Tabi'i Alaya
6. Aw'at
7. Yesmahouli El Kel
8. Noss Hala

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