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The Voice: Rebecca Ferguson

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From the late Amy Winehouse to Leona Lewis, Estelle and Adele, soulful British songstresses have been finding mega success on these shores. Now it’s Rebecca Ferguson’s turn to ride the wave.

Ferguson, whom critics have compared to a young Aretha Franklin, was the 2010 runner-up on the UK talent competition The X Factor (Adele was a huge fan, voting for her more than 80 times), and her debut album, Heaven (Columbia Records), has sold more than 300,000 copies in Britain since its release in December. It lands here on May 29.

The 25-year-old single mother of two didn’t have the easiest upbringing in Liverpool, sometimes without electricity, often with an empty refrigerator. For Ferguson, writing music was an escape; she cowrote all the tracks on Heaven, many of them with big-name writer-producer Eg White (Adele, Florence + the Machine). “I think people will always be skeptical about new artists from reality shows, but I was given a chance [to write my own album],” she says. “Then, as time passed, they realized, ‘Oh, she can actually do this!’ ”

On record, her soulful-yet-edgy voice lends vulnerability on “Nothing’s Real but Love” and “Shoulder to Shoulder” (which brilliantly conveys the angst of a dysfunctional relationship), while “Mr. Bright Eyes” sparkles with upbeat Motown funk. Throughout, Ferguson reveals herself to be artistically mature, singing with restrained control and genuine feeling. “For me, singing and songwriting aren’t paths to fame or fortune,” she says. “They are things I knew I had to do. Growing up, it was all I ever thought about. I want people to hear my music and relate to it.” rebeccaofficial.com.

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