Fringe Box



Young Singer Is Making All The Right Moves With Debut EP

Published on: 19 Nov, 2012
Updated on: 19 Nov, 2012

Fran Galea is a student at Guildford’s Academy of Contemporary of Music. Going under the name Chess, she has just released her debut EP, Babygirl. Sam Liddicott has contributed this review…

Chess (Fran Galea) has just released her debut EP, Babygirl.

It’s all about the voice if you want to stand apart from the crowd. There is too much sodden hyperbole in “new British music” (which in itself is perhaps a misnomer). There is, quite thankfully, room for everyone; but only an ear for those who have something real worth saying, and only so far as people are willing to be patient (sort of like a musical anthropic principle). 

After completing my fifth (and by no means, final) listen of Chess’s debut EP, one very distinctive aspect comes through – independence.  

The more the merrier is a false equivalency often applied to the music industry. For every Adele or Jessie Ware, we have to endure a soulless, credulous X-Factor drone, dressed in the emperor’s new clothes. Chess is making headway towards a reappropriation [sic] of any cynicism towards new acts. It takes less than 20 seconds of listening to Things Take Time, to quiet any nerves (phew!). You can tell that she takes music very seriously.

Chess hails from Malta, but is currently studying at Guildford’s Academy of Contemporary Music.

Hailing from Malta, Chess is already an award-winning artists in her native land, and has been championed by, and supported by, local radio stations (scoring an impressive amount of number one hits in the dance charts of Malta).

In the UK she has been performing gigs for months, as a solo artist, and as half of Mint Condition, a Surrey-based functions band.

“I had to find what it is I wanted,” she told First Magazine in August (regarding her decision to move to England). She went on to explain: “I get bored easily”.  But with interest coming from the US and all around the UK, she will not get time to be bored for long!

Babygirl is the sound of a restless young artist, with a purpose. It was recorded in Surrey, alongside producer Edd Holloway, plus cohorts Yulia Hauer and Lara Manara. The cover of the EP conveys a woman with distinct party lines: strength, independence and originality. The songs contained within are demonstrative of that. Like her better contemporaries, Chess shares their hallmarks: strong vocals, instant likeability and memorable songs.

With its inspirational message and redemptive coda to our heroine, Babygirl (“you’ll get your chance to shine)”, Things Take Time boasts, among other things, an impressive intro. Conjoined with an uplifting chorus and an impressive, modulated central vocal, it is a track about not giving up and being patient. It is also rare, third-person narration.  I. hooks you in and demands attention, winning you over with its positive energy and panegyric message. It is a song that, although not something I would usually listen to, inspired me to put pen to paper and write several tracks of my own (four actually).

Chess’s debut EP in the UK, Babygirl, features three tracks.

The whole track has a great summertime, feel good sound and I’d say the chorus here is more memorable when compared to that of the next track.  Storm follows the calm, and in my view, it is the best song of the EP  It has a dance-orientated beat, with hints of Britney Spears’ Femme Fatale. It contains an intro that rises and swells; is instantly captivating, and Chess’s vocals are at their strongest here. At once powerful, canorous and seductive; the next balletic and austere. The track sounds like a Christina Aguilera-cum-Leona Lewis number, but is stronger than the sum of its parts. The lines “I’m falling…I’m falling/would you save me if you let go?” are placed in the midst of ‘the storm’, and are highly effective and evocative.

Chess promises to her anonymous lover: “Through the storm we will not be moved”.  This track demonstrates the rich lyrical vein running throughout Babygirl, and a maturity that surpasses her 20 years. It is an upbeat and defiant track and you will not forget the chorus for many (many) months to come!

Chess gigs regularly in the Surrey area.

Bringing proceedings to a close comes Breathe. Again, it manifests a brilliant intro and an impressive vocal turn from Chess. It is the vocal itself that is the lynchpin of the song. Breathe is flirtatious and playful in the verses, and becomes intense in the chorus, with shorter words made polysyllabic, to beautiful effect. The drum track is a little monotonous mind. Where it needs to pop it doesn’t, as it tends to become languorous rather than propulsive (it even resembles a metronome in places). The arrangement is possibly the weakest of the EP, but nevertheless it is still an incredible track, and a fitting end to a brilliant effort.

There is an even-handiness to each track, each one is given equal weight, so that neither vocals nor the music are needlessly showy. The EP doesn’t sound rushed to meet a budget. It sounds measured and studied.

Chess’s voice is the centrifuge that propels everything and is incredibly similar to one of vocal idols: Christina Aguilera. Like the 31-year-old, Chess possesses an almighty power, without the ululation and histrionics of some of Aguilera’s (perhaps, weaker) moments.

Chess’s voice is sexy and seductive at one moment; brash, ballsy and defiant the next. Sweet and crystalline in the upper register, while controlled and focused during crescendos. I know from contacting Fran via Facebook, how important this EP is to her.

I spoke to her just over a month ago while she was sequestered at home (writing the tracks). She was quite reticent about its potential and was unsure of how it would eventually be received. Since then, she has been promoting it tirelessly through social media, and has spent nearly all of her money making it happen.

I have been amazed by Chess’s covers on YouTube (see link at the bottom of the review). She is a skilful interpreter, and her version of Herbie Hancock’s A Song For You (originally performed by Leon Russell), deserves to be committed to disc, as it is an incredible performance.

Although, as she has said herself: “I do everything from rock with my band, to soul and RnB backed by piano”.  So, it seems, it all may well be a future possibility. Chess need not worry, mind. Babygirl acts as a didactic aid to any new talent, in the art of showing how it should be done.

The preview of Babygirl is currently available online at:

Official site:




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