Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Head or Heart | Christina Perri


Three years after Christina Perri debuted with "Jar of Hearts" and Lovestrong, she has finally managed to cook up a sophomore record: Head or Heart. With months of promo under her belt, and a looming North American tour, let's see how she did on a record that was three years in the making.

The album opens with the acoustic "Trust," which has some strong vocals and some even prettier backing harmonies. Following it, "Burning Gold," the album's second single, sounds like a bit drawn up from Sara Bareilles (which isn't particularly a change). In the summery song, Perri sings about stepping up into a brighter and better life: "I’m setting fire to the life that I know / We start a fire everywhere that we go / We starting fires, we starting fires / Till our lives are burning gold."

The upbeat, cutesy "By My Forever" features Ed Sheeran, who blends very well with Perri. "Human" follows directly behind it. As many already know, "Human" dropped in January as the lead single to Head or Heart, and I wrote a review of the song as soon as I heard it. With a quiet tone, subtle climaxes, and inspiring lyrics, "Human" is perfect for contemporary pop radio.

After so many semi-upbeat songs, Perri brings on "One Night," which sounds like the soundtrack to a rainy night. And speaking of water, the seventh track on the album, "Sea of Lovers," relies on metaphors in its blossoming chorus to express feeling lost in a relationship: "In the sea of lovers without ships / Lovers without size, you're the only way out of it / A sea of lovers losing time / Lovers losing hope, will you let me follow you / Wherever you go, bring me home." (For any of Perri's fans reading this, you may have noticed that I skipped right over "I Don't Wanna Break" in the track listing... because it was super forgettable.)

"The Words" finds Perri in a vulnerable situation, as she sings, "And I know the scariest part is letting go / Cause love is a ghost you can’t control / I promise you the truth can’t hurt us now / So let the words slip out of your mouth" This susceptible feeling is conveyed again in "Lonely Child," however it is masked by a slightly lighthearted beat; a happy sound that in turn spills over into the next track, "Run," as well. (I would mention "Butterfly" and "Shot Me in The Heart" here, but sadly... they're just as forgettable as "I Don't Wanna Break.")

Head or Heart draws to a close with one last inspirational bit: "I Believe." Lyrically, the song is absolutely beautiful, especially with lines like, "I believe in the lost possibilities you can see / And I believe that the darkness reminds us where light can be" and "‘Cause I have been where you are before / And I have felt the pain of losing who you are / And I have died so many times, but I am still alive." The song primarily focuses on the sound of a piano, but also dabbles with subtle beat-boxing in the second verse as well as the voices of a chorus while the song runs into it's final minute and Perri repeats "This is not the end of me, this is the beginning / Hold on."

This album gleams with confidence vocally. We've been used to a quiet, timid Christina Perri, but she now gets comfortable enough to belt notes out with radiance. I like that. Head or Heart is also very cohesive, aiming directly for a contemporary pop audience. I like that, too. The real problem with this album isn’t a lack of talent, but that it is void of memorable material. When consumed all at once, Head or Heart seems to blend into a gargantuan blob of power ballads. The only songs that really stay in the forefront are "Human," "I Believe," "One Night," and "Sea of Lovers," while everything else is just sufficient filler material.

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