Anette Olzon was, like many singers before her, put into an impossible situation. Replacing a unique and beloved vocalist is next to impossible, especially when the band in question does nothing to help the cause. Anette seemed like an odd choice to join Nightwish after Tarja's departure, and her two records with the band offered mixed results. There were flashes of brilliance, but they were obscured by a band that wrote songs without realizing they had a different voice singing them, which did no favors to either side. So when Anette found herself out of Nightwish, and at the beginning of a solo career, it was her opportunity to show the world what she is truly capable of.
The answer to that is simple; brilliance.
“Shine” does what Nightwish couldn't, playing to Anette's many strengths as a vocalist. Throughout the album, her voice is singularly impressive, and makes me wonder how she could have been so misused prior to now. “Shine” is not a metal record, nor is it a pop record. It sits somewhere outside of all genre classifications, but the varied tones the songs take on show that Anette has many facets to her voice, all of which sparkle like a freshly cut gem reflecting for the first time.
There are two sides to the album, the softer songs that show the tenderness Anette's voice can convey, and the songs that bring more of a rock sound to the proceedings. Anette is adept at both sounds, which helps keep the album from feeling like a battle between two warring clans. Her voice is a lilting beauty on songs like “Floating”, where her tone carries the entire composition. She can show her power on the heavier numbers, and she unleashes a few notes in “Lies” and “Falling” that are stunning.
“Falling”, to my ears, is the highlight of the album. The heavier guitars make a perfect compliment to the clarity of Anette's voice, as the hook drives its way home. It's melodic rock at its finest, and I've heard few voices that can do it better than she does here. There are a couple of moments where she reaches back and projects, where she becomes the proverbial siren luring sailors to their deaths, and I can understand how the beauty of a song can entice them into the trap.
What makes “Shine” work so well as an album is that it doesn't try to be something it's not. Anette balances her interests in the rock and pop worlds, creating a mixture that feels like the melding that goes on in the mind of omnivorous music fans. Instead of fitting her voice into the role required by the music, these songs have been constructed to show off her voice, which she shows is as beautiful as they come.
A lot of people will be disappointed in “Shine”, because they came to it expecting something very different. For anyone who puts the record on expecting nothing more than to hear a great voice singing great songs, “Shine” is a revelation. It's becoming increasingly rare to be able to hear pop music built to showcase a true talent. “Shine” is one of those albums, and it shouldn't be missed.