By: Tim Coffman, Columnist
Photo courtesy of directlyrics.com
Sara Bareilles’ career has been on the upswing for some time now. Since she broke onto the music scene as a pop singer with singles like “Love Song” and “King of Anything,” she has held up a track record for having consistent pop gems across her discography. In the past few years, she also wrote the music for the Broadway show “Waitress” along with partaking in the NBC special of “Jesus Christ Superstar”. After a few years pursuing other musical ventures, how does Bareilles’s pop expertise hold up with time?
The first thing that jumps out at you about this record is the writing. The experience on Broadway has rubbed off on Bareilles on songs like “Fire” and “Armor,” both of which show an emotional gravitas that can only come from work in the theater. The lyrics have also taken a step up on this record. Many songs in the track listing like “Orpheus” and “Poetry by Dead Men” tackle breakups in a mature and experienced manner that isn’t seen that often from typical pop stars. There is also a nostalgic look into the days of innocence on the song “Miss Simone,” which has a great bounce to it while staying at a very slow tempo.
But at this point, the album does have its fair share of problems. Aside from the tracks previously mentioned, the other tracks on the album blend together in a blasé fashion. Though none of the other tracks are what I’d call bad, they don’t have as much of a replay value as the main songs. This made the album somewhat bloated even though it’s only 12 tracks. If this were a concise record, I would be way more forgiving of the forgettable tracks. This was somewhat disappointing towards the end of the record with Bareilles’ duet with John Legend, “A Safe Place to Land.” These musicians do well when left to their own devices, but their collaboration on this record doesn’t come close to what they were doing in “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Also, the production on this record doesn’t do the songs any favors. I get the impression that songs like “Fire” and “Armor” were meant to be empowering and epic on paper, but the production doesn’t allow either of the songs to reach the sonic peak that they should be getting.
But for all my gripes, I feel that this album is still worth checking out. The album just has a little bit of redundancy as it goes along, but the songs that shine through are solid slices of pop music. This album isn’t going to set the world on fire, but I don’t think it has to. This is a record that you put on while working around the house as something to get into a comfortable headspace. And Bareilles has certainly not lost her touch for creating engaging pop songs that leave you with something to think about her listening. Even though it isn’t perfect, I’d still give it a shot.