It is most appropriate that a male review Sara Bareilles’ new album, Little Voice.
Most people consider Little Voice to be a “chick” sort of album, and while the content might seem so, Bareilles’ quality and catchiness is infectious at best, albeit occasionally repetitive.
With lyrics like “If your heart is nowhere in it, I don’t want it for a minute,” and “She’s waiting on the next best thing,” anyone should be able to like Little Voice if a guy can like this album.
Bareilles, an 28-year-old American proclaimed one of the Artists You Should Know by VH1, has a history of performance and musical ability.
Involved throughout her adolescent and college years with music and performance, her music is inherently more refined, even though she is still on the rise in popular music. Listening to her old album Careful Confessions, it’s clear that her sound has not changed much—both albums are very good.
Bareilles’ most prominent asset is her originality stuck between two genres: jazz and pop rock. Her music features bright sounds with catchy bass lines combined with the perfect amount of guitar rock and piano duets; she speaks as much as she sings. The dialogue she carries isn’t because of how explicit her lyrics are, but more because of how discreet she is in the meaning of her lyrics.
In “One Sweet Love” she says, “Ready and waiting for a heart worth breaking/ But I’d settle for an honest mistake in the name of one sweet love.” Bareilles is not required to say something to get the point across—she can skirt the subject and still speak to the minds of her audience.
While her lyrical mastery is hardly arguable, her musical ability is almost as well matched. Her fun beats and simple use of piano (a great trend in music nowadays) provide an enjoyable sound, as good to listen to in the dorm room while studying as going to hear it live at a concert.
As hard as it is to compare Bareilles to any particular artist, the best idea of her sound (when compared to popular artists) is a fusion of Amy Winehouse and Coldplay. As Coldplay delivers a refreshing orchestration refined with years of experience, Winehouse provides very explicit lyrics in her ideas and emotions—not so subtle as Coldplay’s, but much louder and simply much more. Like Winehouse, Bareilles has a dynamic range in her voice, and like Coldplay, she is generally consistent in her quality.
However, Bareilles’ problems include a little too much refinement. Listening to the empty and hollow intro to “Morningside” may throw off some listeners. “Morningside” can easily be one of those songs that people skip, because alongside the rest of the album, it doesn’t really seem to match in both fun and quality.
While Bareilles has a massive vocal range and control over her music in “Morningside,” she doesn’t seem to be as ambitious as she could be. If Chris Martin did “Green Eyes” the way he sings, Bareilles could have taken a few more risks—though the risks would have paid off with a voice like hers.
Even though one of twelve songs isn’t great, the album as a whole package is fantastic. The best part of Little Voice is how refreshing Bareilles’ sound is. It’s exciting simply to hear what she has to say and express, and how she goes about that task with piano, hard bass and technically proficient musical progressions.
As a guy who listens to the likes of Coldplay, Lifehouse and other hopelessly romantic songs from a man to a woman, it’s great to hear what a woman has to say—and not in a simple love story, either. Like Train’s My Private Nation, Bareilles provides a tough love, a tragic love.
Once I finished the album, though, I knew exactly what her message was with her hits “Many the Miles” and “Gravity.” Bareilles was probably looking for guys to learn a lesson from her album, and she has clearly inspired one—through good music, I certainly am struck.