Looking Back

Natalie Imbruglia’s Left Of The Middle at 25

At just 22, Imbruglia released an alt-pop album that would help to define an entire decade

If there’s one thing that jumps out when relistening to Left Of The Middle, it’s that Natalie Imbruglia knows her way around a chorus. From the swung pop-rock of ‘City’ to the sunshiny 90s singer-songwriter ‘Wishing I Was There’, and even darker offerings like ‘Smoke’, Imbruglia consistently delivers in the refrain – lyrically, musically and vocally. And then there’s ‘Torn’, one of only two songs on Left Of The Middle that Imbruglia didn’t write. It may have been American rockers Ednaswap that created ‘Torn’ and Danish singer Lis Sørensen that first recorded it, but it was Imbruglia that made it one of the most recognisable choruses of the 90s.

Natalie Imbruglia - Torn (Official Video)

Imbruglia was fresh off of Neighbours when she moved to London to pursue a recording career. She recorded a handful of demos for RCA Records, but it was ‘Torn’ that solidified her signing. Imbruglia’s ‘Torn’ exists in that special category of songs that aren’t just borrowed by other artists but elevated, side by side with Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’, Jeff Buckley’s ‘Hallelujah’ and Amy Winehouse’s ‘Valerie’. As the lead single of her debut album, ‘Torn’ could hardly have been a bigger success for Imbruglia, charting globally and becoming the most played song on Australian radio since 1990. It was the definition of a smash.

Natalie Imbruglia - Smoke

It was Imbruglia’s vocal talent that sold ‘Torn’ to the world. Across Left Of The Middle, Imbruglia’s skill as a vocalist shines even in the album’s weaker moments. Her talent extends beyond a clear tone and vocal flexibility to her extraordinary emotional execution. Where ‘Torn’ rings true thanks to Imbruglia’s soft vulnerability, so does ‘One More Addiction’ thanks to her grit and ‘Don’t You Think?’ thanks to her low urgency. ‘Smoke’, one of the album’s darker moments, sees Imbruglia take on an almost childish voice, amplified by a sweet tone and simple vocal phrasings.

Wishing I Was There

It’s no wonder that, twenty-five years on, the record is remembered as a defining 90s moment. Imbruglia’s versatile voice on a body of genre-blending, radio-ready work was too perfect a combination. As future acts such as Avril Lavigne, Taylor Swift, Paramore and most recently Olivia Rodrigo continue to hop genres and embrace the alternative, Left Of The Middle remains a masterclass in alternative pop.