This year it's 14 year old Renee Olstead, the astoundingly young new star, whose self-produced debut EP so impressed producer David Foster (Celine Dion, Michael Buble, Josh Grobin) that he decided to work with her on this debut album.And Renee's performance of the mix of romantic jazz standards and new jazzy pop tunes is impressive. Even at high volumes, or when pushed to the limits of her broad vocal range, the sweet purity and smoothness of her voice never fails. Unlike many pop would-be divas (take Celine Dion), Olstead's tone is powerful but never shrill. Unlike Mariah Carey, her style avoids over the top virtuosity. Her sense for the beat is almost percussive at times, her use of vibrato and other tricks never frilly.And because the tracks are standards, they're so well worn and stylised by repetition that it hardly matters whether or not she's old and experienced enough to understand them properly (though who says a 14 year old can't fall in love and get hurt? You don't have to be over 18 to be foolish!) Olstead's making beautiful music full of exciting subtlety that will please both the jaded jazz fundi, and the people who buy anything they see advertised enough on TV.
And she's cute, too. The CD cover picture, which makes her look like a tranked up 40-year-old in too much makeup, is misleading. Elsewhere she does look her age. This is certainly not a bad thing for sales. Because let's face it, legal or not legal, young beauty sells and Renee is absolutely drop dead gorgeous. Her talent, her sure vocal touch and her beauty make for a killer combination.So fame is a sure thing for now. But what about the future?Like the countless "sensations" who offer a beautiful voice, stunning technique or a pretty face, Olstead still has to prove that she can define her own career. She must still fully reveal her own talent by making something new, doing what something nobody else can ever do quite like she can. Meaning? She needs to write her own really wonderful songs, like Norah Jones has, if she wants her popularity to outlast the novelty of her youth and her well managed start.- Jean Barker
WHAT OTHER CRITICS SAID:There's no disputing the sultry vocal talents showcased on this debut that balances familiar chestnuts from the great American songbook ("Summertime," "Someone to Watch Over Me," "Sentimental Journey") with more recent fare...- Jerry McCulley for amazon.com
Whilst she may be young the evidence on offer here was of a great voice, backed by a superb bustling band but more than anything a confident, sassy performer who may well follow in the footsteps of the greats...- critic.info
The music is performed with all the panache, polish and personal flair one expects from Billie Holliday and Judy Garland, among many others.- Jazzreview.com
PICTURES: Renee's online gallery: Click hereThere's one every year - that vocalist with the astounding voice, produced by someone important, supported by a cast of solid existing stars. Perfect for that summer dinner party or that romantic restaurant, or even that tongue in cheek seduction.
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