Review: Natasha Bedingfield Makes Superb Return With ‘Roll With Me’
It’s been nine years since Natasha Bedingfield released her last album, Strip Me. And although many may think of her new album, Roll With Me, as a comeback, Natasha doesn’t see it that way. Indeed, she never stopped making and playing music. She was writing and recording songs regularly, even though fans only got to hear a handful of them here and there over the years. Why an album eluded us remains a bit of a mystery – though we suspect label issues may have played a role – but Natasha didn’t slow down or give up. Natasha connected with songwriter and producer Linda Perry in late 2017, and that marked the turning point she needed. The pair began writing and recording in spring 2018, and the result is Roll With Me, an album that was fully worth the wait.
Roll With Me picks up where Strip Me left off, but Natasha isn’t the same now as she was nearly a decade ago. At first glance, it feels comfortingly familiar: Gentle pop soundscapes, empowering anthems, songs about love and strength. But Natasha’s new music offers plenty of new elements – instrumentally and lyrically.
We anticipated a retro vibe from Natasha’s new album, and Roll With Me certainly delivers. Some songs, like lead single “Roller Skate,” offer a bit of funk and dashes of disco. Several songs take it back further, weaving in elements of 1960s soul music. We can hear the influences of Motown and Stevie Wonder, but we can also callbacks to the early 2000s scene that first introduced Natasha. Strings and horns add extra layers to Roll With Me, filling out the sound and grounding it while synths make it lighter. Some music is innocent and youthful – a nod to Natasha’s 18-month-old son, Solomon – even when the lyrics get heavy.
While much of Natasha’s past music was cheerful and optimistic, she tackles tougher subjects here. In addition to songs about relationships and feeling carefree, Natasha talks directly about deeper issues like gun violence and sexism. The themes can be heartbreaking or depressing, but Natasha still finds away to reassure us, empower us, and find the light at the end of the tunnel. She goes into moody territory, but she also finds joy in songs about her son and love. It’s refreshing to hear Natasha sing about more subjects and tease out different moods, but it’s also comforting to hear her signature optimism paving the way forward.
Roll With Me is a welcome return for Natasha, and an album that deserves recognition and a permanent spot in your music library. Natasha’s voice is stronger than ever, her lyrics more open and impactful, and the songs more dynamic. Natasha has found a perfect collaborator in Linda Perry, and hopefully Roll With Me is just the glorious start of a new wave of music from Natasha.
Track by Track
“Kick It” – Roll With Me opens gently with “Kick It,” previously released as the second single from the record. However, the album version is a full minute longer than the single release, making it feel fresh again. “Kick It” glides in softly, simple keyboard chords and atmospheric synths over a mid-tempo beat. Natasha’s first words are “Remember how you made me crazy? Remember how I didn’t care?” It sets the tone for a song about keeping the love alive through the years and through the ups and downs. But there are more downs right now, and Natasha has wounds and scars that need healing. This song actually highlights a theme heard on the rest of the album: fighting through the hard times to find the light at the end of the tunnel.
“Roller Skate” – Next up is the effective title track, and the first song we heard from Roll With Me back on July 19th. “Roller Skate” opens with a funky groove and some dancing summer vibes. Natasha kicks off with the soothing chorus, her voice flowing like water as horns punctuate the background. She paints an image of roller skating across the pavement, trying to catch up to another skater ahead of her. When the chorus returns after the first verse, it’s exploded into a kinetic, sunny anthem perfect for this time of year. It’s a freeing song that whisks you “a million miles away.”
“Everybody Come Together” (feat. Angel Haze) – Fans first heard this on August 16th when it came out as the third single teasing the album. “Everybody Comes Together” opens with elegant strings and handclaps before Natasha comes in. She croons with ease over a soulful, R&B-tinged beat. The song sounds comfortingly old-school, harkening back to the turn of the century and the music that dominated then. On the chorus, Natasha sings, “Makes no difference what we all say – it can change when everybody comes together.” Angel Haze takes on the third verse, driving home the message of making a difference in the world. It’s an irresistible, feel-good song that inspires action and collaboration. Musically, it harkens back to Natasha’s first album, Unwritten.
“Hey Papa” – Speaking of making a difference in the world, “Hey Papa” tackles a very real problem plaguing the United States. From the very first lines – “Kids and guns, started out so young. We normalize and empathize and hold our hands over our eyes.” – it’s clear that “Hey Papa” is a weighty, serious song. Gone is the American dream, and in its place we have “Children paying the cost to live in this world.” And do the men of this country (the titular “Papa” figures) do anything to solve the problems? Do people even care to know the truth? Natasha wrote the song after a friend of hers lost her own child to gun violence. Although the lyrics and themes are heavy, the music is a stark contrast of easy-going, innocent vibes. This further highlights the disconnect between how the world should be and how the world is today.
One month before releasing the album, Natasha performed “Hey Papa” live:
“King Of The World” – Another song Natasha premiered live last month is “King Of The World.” Like “Hey Papa,” this one has sweet, childlike music setting the soundscape. It’s a perfect fit for this ode to Natasha’s baby son, Solomon. Perhaps the cutest thing on the album, “King Of The World” is a tender song about how Natasha’s son brings her joy in a difficult world. Natasha sings, “All the joy that I fail to see; your innocence makes me happy.” Everything is better through her son’s perspective, driven home by the refrain, “In your eye-eye-eyes I’m king of the world.”
“It Could Be Love” – The first entirely new song on Roll With Me is “It Could Be Love,” a track with rushed energy making its lyrics all the more urgent. Over a kinetic beat, Natasha paints a picture of her feeling overwhelmed and thinking too much. But when she feels this way, she just has to look into her partner’s eyes to feel calmer. With him, she can be honest and be herself. Yet Natasha wonders: If she shows her wild side and loses control, will he still stick around? Because if he does, then what they have might really be love. She sings on the choruses, light and with a hint of raspy soul. Meanwhile, the bubbling music in the background reflects the pool she references at the beginning of the song. “It Could Be Love” ends with booming drums and a fading buzz.
“Where We Going Now” – Last Sunday, Natasha previewed a clip of “Where We Going Now” on Instagram. It starts with organ, finger snaps, and a pulsing beat. The song has a slow, steady rhythm, building up ever so gradually, allows the mood to fully sink in. Natasha tries to reassure her brothers and sisters that the world isn’t just filled with pain; there’s also something beautiful to fight for. The song maintains this calming energy until about 3 minutes in, finally growing to an expansive bridge. Strings accompany as Natasha belts about reaching out and finding happiness. Thematically, “Where We Going Now” is similar to “Hey Papa,” but this time the message is more about hope and community. It’s a calming, warm point on the album that ends with a marching drum beat.
“Can’t Look Away” – The previous song segues perfectly into “Can’t Look Away,” starting with an atmospheric sound and heavy mood. Natasha croons about her partner, depicting him as a fallen angel clinging to his broken past. But he can’t see that she loves him the way he is. He’s not listening and he breaks her heart. It’s a beautiful, heart-wrenching song that describes loving someone even as they’re going through a period of pain and selfish misery. It builds up to a vocally rich bridge, but swiftly returns to the atmospheric pulsing that started the song. As Natasha nearly whispers at the end, she’s still “right here standing beside you.” “Can’t Look Away” is a lovely song that ends too soon.
“Can’t Let Go” – Two days before releasing Roll With Me, Natasha previewed “Can’t Let Go” on social media. It picks up the mood instantly, its soulful, Motown sound infusing the track with energy. Natasha sings about wanting to stay true to herself and be strong, but she recognizes that she can’t control everything. She can’t micromanage how others see her, and so she’ll have to let it roll off her back. “Can’t Let Go” is a cute, uplifting song that takes inspiration from the sound of the 1960s.
“No Man I See” – On “No Man I See,” Natasha sets her sight on another issue rampant in the world: sexism. Over piano, Natasha declares that she won’t sabotage herself to make others happy. Men can’t understand her truth, and moreover, no man will ever make Natasha feel like they’re better or stronger than her. The song has a subdued music track, pings emphasizing Natasha’s lyrics especially on the chorus. It’s chill and self-assured, an excellent, unassuming feminist anthem that brings up the album. “No Man I See” ends with layers of vocals driving home its message of woman empowerment.
“Sweet Nothing” – Natasha takes a surprising turn on “Sweet Nothing.” It starts off innocent enough, as she drinks coffee and daydreams about a paramour. Over energetic music, she fantasizes about putting his hands on her waist and making him her lover one day. But this isn’t just a sultry song of seduction. Natasha surprises us all when she ends the chorus with a pulled trigger, tears running down her face, and predictions that he’ll be sorry. Gliding strings at the end of the chorus give an old-school James Bond vibe, further driving home those possibly murderous lyrics. On the bridge, Natasha offers murmured introspection, admitting that she’s this guy’s most gullible sucker. She swears – a first in her discography – before requesting, “Tell me something nice right before we say goodbye.” “Sweet Nothing” is the most surprising song on Roll With Me, and an exciting addition to Natasha’s repertoire.
“I Feel You” – Piano and echoing percussion open “I Feel You,” a drum roll ushering in Natasha’s vocals. On the atmospheric verses, Natasha admits to not feeling sorry if her low feelings are getting in the way of someone else’s good time. She does all she can to keep her composure and pretend to be happy, but her heart is about to break. The chorus vibes into dreamy territory, Natasha singing that she “can feel you in my life.” She describes fighting the demons in her head, feeling immobilized and shattered. This is perhaps the most emotional, raw song we’ve heard from Natasha, and an instant highlight on the album.
“Wishful Thinking” – Clear chiming piano chords kick off “Wishful Thinking.” Natasha’s voice is the real star here as she sings in a high register with soulful power. She belts that she may be addicted to pain. The chorus explodes in, synths climbing up and painting a dreamlike soundscape and Natasha belts about hanging on. On the second verse, Natasha admits he was her religion and she’d follow him through hell if needed. The bridge slows it down a bit, Natasha crooning over piano that their lives are changing and they can’t hold hands anymore. But she wouldn’t want to start over even if she could: “We’ve gone too far and we can’t turn back around.” This is an epic song that highlights Natasha’s raspy timbre and soulful sense.
“Real Love” – Roll With Me ends with “Real Love,” first teased in an Instagram video last Tuesday. The song immediately launches into a fun, happy sound with high energy. Flickering guitar accompanies Natasha as she belts about taking her time with love. She describes recklessly entering a chaotic relationship, craving feel-good real love. Horns punctuate the song, giving it old-school energy and extra color. “Real Love” is a short, upbeat song that ends Roll With Me on a high note, leaving listeners ready to play the album again.
Roll With Me Score: 4.5/5
Highlights on Roll With Me include: “Everybody Come Together,” “It Could Be Love,” “Can’t Look Away,” “Sweet Nothing,” “I Feel You,” “Wishful Thinking,” and “Real Love.”
You can stream or buy Roll With Me at all the major music providers here.