Official website: http://www.sofiaevangelina.com
Sofia Evangelina is a singer/songwriter from Canada. Despite only being the tender age of fifteen, she has already accomplished a great deal in her musical career. She has won numerous talent competitions including Canada National Overall Talent at Talent INC 2014, Canada Teenfest and TheMics amongst many others, as well as performing live at various festivals.
She has worked on her first album, Butterfly, with Beverly Delich and Bryant Oleander, known for their work with Michael Bublé. She cites her major influences as Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé and all time great female singers of the past like Etta James, Arethra Franklin and Nina Simone. In particular, you can hear the influence of Christina Aguilera. This debut album consists of ten tastefully chosen cover versions that range across numerous genres including soul, RnB, pop and gospel.
The album starts with a superb version of the evergreen Etta James classic At Last. Set to a beautifully performed and produced musical backdrop featuring synth strings, bluesy piano and picked acoustic guitar, it provides a perfect backdrop for Sofia’s voice. With a naturally strong tone, she gives a compelling vocal performance that captures the emotive resonance of the original. It also showcases her considerable vocal range and sets the tone for the rest of the album.
The soulful vibe continues with the second track, an upbeat cover of Sam Cooke’s timeless Wonderful World that retains the charm of the original but gives it a more modern pop sound. Sofia shows that her voice is just as suited to this kind of material, and her performance is nicely counter-pointed by male backing vocals which makes for an effective combination.
Third track All I Could Do Was Cry was originally released by Etta James but was brought back to mainstream prominence by Beyoncé in 2008 when she played Etta James in the film Cadillac Records. Sofia once again gives a fine performance, and a slow ballad like this allows her to extemporize the melody with vocal inflections in the style of Christina Aguilera, her idol. She hits the high notes with ease, and captures the emotion of the song well.
Next comes a powerhouse performance of the well known song Feeling Good, originally by the late, great Nina Simone. Starting with some gorgeous jazzy piano, it builds into a musical tour de force featuring a biting brass section, with a well crafted arrangement. Sofia steals the show with some versatile vocal acrobatics, and really let’s rip at the song’s climax. A fantastic interpretation of a perennial classic.
Then comes a real change of pace with a rendition of The Jackson 5’s I Want You Back. This song allows Sofia to express the more ebullient and joyous side to her character, which is delivered in abundance on this infectious performance. Musically, it captures the groovy rolling piano melody and strings of the original along with the skyscraping lead vocal melody which Sofia handles well. The call and response vocals with the backing singers is also highly effective.
Sixth track Hello is, for me, the centrepiece of the album. It’s not a cover of the huge hit by Adele, but in fact the romantic 80’s classic by Lionel Ritchie. Sofia gives a wonderfully sensitive and controlled performance that captures the tender poignancy of the lyrics. The arrangement, which builds from sparse and minimal to huge across the duration of the track, helps bring out the haunting and melancholy nature of the music and these two aspects converge to produce this standout track.
The final four songs on the album are all loving, positive and uplifting in nature. First is a fine cover of Bill Withers’ well known ode to friendship Lean On Me. It’s built around a simple arrangement consisting of strident, concise piano and the softer tones of Rhodes electric piano and organ. Sofia delivers another strong vocal near the top of her range, then the music modulates up a key towards the end for a climactic finish. She performs some very impressive vocal runs and riffs at the very end, which is truly worth listening out for.
Next is one of the more ambitious covers, Don’t You Worry Bout A Thing, originally written and sung by Stevie Wonder on his epochal 1973 album Innervisions. It’s an excellent choice of a song to cover, with the Latin-tinged feel of the music providing some nice stylistic variation. Sofia sounds like she’s having fun singing this one.
Perhaps more familiar to modern listeners will be the following cover of Coldplay’s melancholy but moving ballad, Fix You. Sofia gives an almost angelic performance of touching warmth and intimacy, capturing the empathy that lies at the heart of the song. The sparse arrangement allows her voice to take centre stage and the harmonies are gorgeous.
The last track is another song originally by The Jackson 5, I’ll Be There. This one is actually performed as a duet with a male vocalist, whose voice complements hers well. Sofia gives this one 110% vocally, often at the top of her range. They take turns singing alternate verses before joining together for the final section, bringing the whole album to a satisfying and emotional denouement.
Overall, this is a highly impressive debut from a gifted young singer who can convey deep emotions and make a song truly her own, an impressive feat for a singer of any age. Cover versions are a way for new artists to reach the public but Sofia is not resting on her laurels, currently working with prominent Canadian songwriters on original material.
That is what will decide whether she can emulate the huge success of her favourite singers, but this album is an excellent introduction to her versatile vocal talents and will make her many new fans. Butterfly is out now and available on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon Music and all major streaming services.
VERDICT = 8.6 out of 10