If Alessia Cara’s 2015 anti-party anthem ‘Here’ didn’t immediately pique your interest with its irresistible swagger and retrogressive sound, you might want to take a glance at the lyrics before any final judgements. Because beneath the 19-year-old’s gorgeous, warbling vocals and unassuming charm is an age-defying insightfulness that hasn’t been heard from a pop artist since the likes of Lorde.
Now arriving with her first full-length ‘Know-It-All’, the Canadian newcomer remains true to form, offering up a debut that resonates with reminiscing twenty-somethings as well as the adolescents she counts herself among.
From wistful opener ‘Seventeen’, when Cara sings: “My mother said keep yourself surrounded with good advice and yeah I guess that sounded nice when I was ten”, there’s a quiet cynicism echoing through the album that’s easy to miss while being wooed by her sweet soul-tinged vocals. The contrarian spirit of aforementioned single ‘Here’ sees Cara at her lyrical best, spitting quick-wit, detailed observations as she plays the eye-rolling narrator at a party she’s longing to leave. The neophyte oozes cool on other highlight ‘Four Pink Walls’ as she demonstrates her hip-hop tendencies in the verses, and a gorgeously lazy R&B drawl in the choruses.
There’s no denying that the debut is front-loaded with the best material and if you’ve already heard the ‘Four Pink Walls’ EP then listening to the album seems almost unnecessary. After the single cuts the genre-bending production eventually succumbs to a more youthfully effervescent production on the album tracks - a double-edged sword, depending on which of the said audiences you belong to - and the lyrical concepts take a turn for generic pop. However, for the most part ‘Know-It-All’ is a debut that allows the unfiltered voice of a refreshingly real, young star-in-the-making to shine through.
Words: Lisa Henderson
- - -
- - -