- Total Divas
When Maria Kanellis announced all those months ago that she would be releasing her own music, I’m not going to lie, I didn’t take her seriously. Usually when people cross over between media platforms, the result is contrived and lacks substance. Just because an actor is great at acting, it doesn’t mean they’re going to make a great musical artist and vice versa. The likes of Paris Hilton, for example, has tried crossing over from well, whatever it is that Paris Hilton does, to music and yielded little success. It seems like these celebrities think it would be ‘cool’ and ‘fun’ to put a record out, not to mention it would add a few more zeroes to their bank balance. However, in just one chat with Maria, I could feel her passion and investment in her music. Everyone has that passion project they’d love to do but probably never accomplish because it seems so surreal, so you have to admire Kanellis’ bravado in making one of her many passion projects come to life.
The four-track EP opens with the track ‘Alice in Wonderland’ named after the Lewis Carroll novel recently brought to screen by Tim Burton. From the title alone, already you can imagine playful lyrics about tea parties and shrinking potions and that’s exactly what you get. The song opens with references to the Queen of Hearts and a rabbit hole before seguing into a thumping chorus with Kanellis chanting, “Off with my head,” chastising herself for falling in love and ‘losing her head’, among other things. The song has a cabaret vibe to it, you can just imagine it being sung in a smoky jazz club in the 1920s with Kanellis in flapper get-up. Compared to the first single ‘Fantasy’, my only other experience of Maria’s music at this point, Kanellis’ vocals are softer and have a touch of the Marilyn Monroe about them. She seems to be chanelling that soft, breathy, sexy vocal style that left men enchanted as she sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to the president. I certainly sense the inspiration but I’m not convinced. On the whole, ‘Alice’ is certainly a whimsical song that I think has an air of zaniness to it much like the book and countless movies.
Track two is the lead single, ‘Fantasy’ which we have been hearing for the past couple of months. As described by me in the past, this is fit for a Twilight movie soundtrack and depending on your stance on that particular franchise, that could either be a good thing or a bad thing. For me personally, Twilight is the dumbest entertainment franchise to ever exist but that’s neither here nor there. When you consider the words ‘Twilight soundtrack’, you think angsty lyrics with themes of forbidden love and desire and that’s exactly what ‘Fantasy’ is. The song opens sharply and shrilly with hard guitar strings and the sentiment is echoed in Kanellis’ vocals, she is assertive and forceful with her tone. The verse cascades into the chorus and the listener senses that something big is coming — the chorus is loud and boisterous with Kanellis shrieking, “Fantaaaaasy” but it works. It certainly isn’t the most groundbreaking song, you can find a dozen in the same vain on an emo kid’s iPod, but it’s a proven format and as much as I hate to admit it [because it’s not my personal genre of music, not because it’s Maria], it’s catchy and does get stuck in your head. Maria says this is her favourite track on the EP and I can see why.
On the lyrically suggestive ‘Change Your Mind’, Kanellis wants someone to “change their mind between her thighs,” she sings in the chorus. Oh Maria, only you could make us blush and cringe at the same time! Kanellis seems stripped back and emotionally bare on this track, perhaps undignified to admit using sex to keep her man but there’s an emotion here that I don’t sense on the previous two tracks. Kanellis sings: “Change your mind between my thighs / Maybe down there you’ll realise / Gasping for air / Then you’ll care about me.” The words of a woman hanging on a thread trying to keep her man? The desperation in the lyrics and vocals tells a story that many women, I believe, will be able to identify and empathise with. Not saying we all use sex in this regard, but the breakdown of a relationship you never wanted to end is something many go through and I think we can identify with that desperation. On this track, I can really sense Kanellis’ emotions and that is what music is about.
And finally we have the title track, ‘Sevin Sins’ named after her boyfriend Vince. From the moment the song starts playing you can sense this will be of a darker nature — ‘hell’ and ‘fire’ immediately come to mind. You can almost hear that fire burning in the opening moments before we’re hit with Maria’s singing. Much different than the other tracks, Kanellis sings in a lower register and sounds more gritty, almost as if there’s a little anger in her voice. Maria sings: “Sevin sins, oh sevin sins, which one will pull me in?” This perhaps gives you an idea of what this song is all about. Like ‘Fantasy’, there’s a lot of angst but for the most part, it’s the music and not the vocals that sets the scene. The production overpowers the vocals and makes the song what it is, not Maria’s singing which is unfortunate.
Overall, it’s an interesting effort with a variety of different styles used. There is a shift in style and tone from one song to the next which I appreciate. If I’m honest, I was expecting all of the songs to be in the same Twilight-esque vain as ‘Fantasy’ but there is a nice variety that shows you different sides to Maria. The four songs gives you a nice taste of what a full album could sound like. Unlike other celebrities, I don’t feel that Maria has just made a record for the hell of it — you can sense her passion for her music. I went into listening to this with low expectations and I found myself surprisingly entertained. If you are looking for deep, meaningful, original music however, it’s not that. Just from listening to ‘Fantasy’, you could tell that there isn’t much originality in the music and Maria has been inspired by what others have done. It is difficult, like in wrestling, to do something original in music and oftentimes, you are doing what others have done before you. The casual listener likely won’t dismiss a song because it’s not original; if it’s catchy and has a great hook — it works. Maria has four songs here that are catchy and have a hook yet are cliched and have been done a billion times before. That’s pretty much the status quo in the music charts right now, though. It’s not original or groundbreaking music, but I wasn’t expecting it to be. Let’s face it, she’s not signed to a major record label with big bucks — you are going to end up using computer-generated sounds that anyone can get a hold of. It’s not bad, it’s not great — it’s just okay. This is a decent effort from Maria, if a little safe, but I’d say better to be safe than go way off the mark.
Standout Track: ‘Change Your Mind’