Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Know-It-All | Alessia Cara

Forget it, Katy Perry. This is the real teenage dream.

After the rebound of her single "Here," which originally settled for viral success before creeping its way up into the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 in the past month, 19 year old Alessia Cara's career has recently reached a turning point. Like every teenager, she's seemingly a Know-It-All but admittedly doesn't know enough -- and it's this attitude that makes her debut album the most #relatable set of ten songs to be released in a long time.

Much like the relationship between Troye Sivan's Wild and Blue Neighbourhood is said to be, this album is merely an extension to Cara's Four Pink Walls extended play, which was released only three months ago. In fact, all five songs from the EP -- including "Here," "Seventeen," and "I'm Yours" -- were simply copied and pasted right beside five complementary tracks. The tracks are just as enjoyable as they were in August -- and they're still the most varied tracks. The new tracks all follow a pop pattern more closely than the old school R&B-fused tracks from the EP, leading to a mixed bag of productions here.

But where the production lack in identity, the lyrics pick up the slack. Those light, digestible productions are guided by Cara's defining characteristic: the glimmering optimism -- the same optimism that she (sarcastically) cast off in "Here" -- that oozes from her conversational lyrics. Her shtick is introspection disguised in straight-out-of-the-diary writings (the mushier parts of the diary come through on the album's two lovey ballads, "Stone" and "Stars"),  and despite a number of co-writers with their hands in this project, Cara's writing of "Four Pink Walls" single-handedly confirms that most of the album's statements are, in fact, hers -- which is promising, considering they, alongside her voice, are the most powerful weapons in her teen pop arsenal.

For example, her own ode to outsiders, "Wild Things," is a standout track that revels in being carefree and professes a love for the 808s that drive this album: "So aye, we brought our drum and this is how we dance / No mistaking, we make our breaks, if you don't like our 808s / Then leave us alone, cause we don't need your policies / We have no apologies." And album closer "Scars to Your Beautiful" may make her strongest statement, with its verses telling the story of a teenage girl who takes dangerous measures (self-harm, starvation, etc.) to look like a cover girl. The song's chorus, however, spins things back to that signature glimmer of hope: "But there's a hope that's waiting for you in the dark / You should know you're beautiful just the way you are / And you don't have to change a thing / The world could change its heart."

With an animated voice, straightforward lyrics that get their points across smoothly, and a generally innocent demeanor that amps her likability by at least tenfold, Alessia Cara is bound for further success. She plays it safe with her nondescript production this time around as she experiments with that malleable voice, but the development of a signature sound should be expected in the coming years as she releases more material. This album may not be anything especially striking, but it surely is the warm introduction to the talent at hand.

Know-It-All is out now via Def Jam Recordings. Exclusive pressings can be found at Target department stores.

1 comment

  1. I fangirled my hipster face off when I heard the Portishead sample in "Here." The string line in Portishead's "Glory Box" has never been my favorite but I really like how it's used in this song.


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