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Released: 14th January 2002.

Tina Arena - Just MeThe artist calls it pathetically obvious, and it is. But the simplicity of the title takes nothing away from the quality this album possesses. An Arena album, as always, creates a masterful world for the listener, and this album is certainly no different.

Recovering from her marriage break-up to ex-manager Ralph Carr took Arena off Australian airwaves for a good four years. Over those past few years, Tina has been creating explosions over Europe, and has undergone an intensive healing trek through writing her third album since the epic enormity of the 1994 "Dont Ask".

Track-by-track, Arena pours out the pain she has struggled with through the break-up, and writes so directly from the heart that at times the songs can even be described as brutally honest.

Though the subject of "Just Me" remains crystal clear, Arena herself stresses that this is neither a bitter nor an angry album. "Just Me" spins under a wave of inspirational liberation and is what Arena calls, >a celebration of womanhood. The lyrical content remains uplifting, open, and her reality, and it is this very reality that will make the connection with the fans.

Teaming up with some of the music world's most legendary figures, Arenas therapy quest spared no expense in production. She collaborated with Desmond Child and Nile Rodgers of Chic fame, and has much of the album produced by the great Peter Vetesse. It is Vetesse's influence presumably, that very delicately dusts Arenas music on this album: soft and cool electronica beats, reminiscent of Madonna's late works, make this album rather a different bag of mixes to the classic Arena we are so used to hearing.

Tina, it seems, is unafraid to try it all. Funk, ambience, electronica and a touch of upbeat dance energies - "Just Me" somewhat mellows out that big voice. It is a change, however, that only adds to the magic.

Following this reinvention is the possibility that a good dose of Arena fans will find it hard to grasp the differences between "Just Me" and its predecessor "In Deep". Whilst "In Deep" was a musically live album, its focus was the slow, peaceful, soothing time in Arenas life, and the songs on it reflect a far more gentle interaction with the listeners than "Just Me".

Arena, however, never one to be pigeon-holed into a specific style or market, refused to settle for anything less than experimentation on the new album, and the result a pristine collection of tracks.

With its Mediterranean strings gliding over those pure vocals, the deep bass grooves and the sparkling new age sounds complete the perfect picture of international influence. Arena, after being subjected to the French chilled underground music moods, has managed to come away with a fresh new sound that is sure to impress.

"Just Me" creates a journey that once again exhibits the professionalism and beauty of Arenas work. The only thing asked of the listener is to have no expectations of this album, for if you do, be prepared for them to be swiftly crushed by that soaring voice and deep emotion following the very first track.

* * * * (Tiger Lilly)

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