In 1997, Natalie Imbruglia sprinkled fairy dust all over “Torn,” her hit Ednaswap cover. On Male, her first album since 2009, the Aussie singer-actress works more remake magic on tunes originally performed by such male acts as Neil Young, Death Cab for Cutie and Tom Petty. Imbruglia brings her feathery femininity to songs like Daft Punk’s “Instant Crush,” deconstructed to put the focus on the lyrics instead of the robotic effects that tweaked Julian Casablancas’ voice, and “Let My Love Open the Door,” whose dreamy whimsy will surely melt Pete Townshend’s heart. Producer Billy Mann casts a ’70s folk-pop glow on some tracks, while taking others into country -territory: The Cure’s “Friday I’m in Love” turns into a bluegrassy stomper, and a beautifully bittersweet “Goodbye in His Eyes” (Zac Brown Band) evokes early Olivia Newton-John. It doesn’t all click, like when Imbruglia smooths over all the emotional grit of Damien Rice’s “Cannonball.” But her charms on Male win you over in the end.
This story originally appeared in the Aug. 8 issue of Billboard.