Not too long ago, liking pop music was lame. I can recall various moments from my childhood where I was anguished and fussing with dials in the car, shooting off statements denouncing pop music and it’s relationship with radio targeting it’s saturated, uninspired nature. Radio represented the popular opinion, and was an algorithmic machine that responded to and replayed the music that would have the highest chance of people keeping that station on—an attribute that makes terrestrial radio a constant target for criticism. Although the analytics of radio haven’t really changed, artists like 19-year old Alessia Cara, who we had the pleasure of speaking with last month, are pushing the quality of the content forward, making sure that radio in 2015 is the most diverse and the most inspiring it’s ever been. A simple glance at the top charts on iTunes will prove to you that popular music is not what is was, and chances are you’ll see songs like Alessia Cara’s ‘Here’, her inaugural single for Def Jam.
‘Here’ represents every ounce of merit in my words above. It’s a song that deviates from any pop-precedents, whether you choose to focus on the strange sample, the rant-y, avant garde flow, or the lyrics about ironically being stranded in a mob. ‘Here’ is an anti-party anthem that boosts the ideals of the introvert, as Alessia picks apart her unfortunate experience at your average party. The party itself isn’t exactly the problem, as there’s nothing really out of the ordinary being depicted—it’s just that Alessia’s own personal definition of bliss is not in an intoxicated haze, but rather in the confines of her own room, or around people she actually knows, doing things she actually likes.
Her debut EP Four Pink Walls reflects this isolation and reclusiveness, as the title itself is a tribute to her bedroom walls growing up where she would indolently aspire to be the things the she is now. The song ‘Four Pink Walls’ elaborates further, with lines like “I assumed there was only room for my dreams in my dreams so I’d sleep and repeat ’til the moon went home”, before diving into the booming chorus, “Then the universe aligned, with what I had in mind, who knew there was a life behind those four pink walls” proving and manifesting that Alessia’s place of mental refuge also happened to be the place her talent and stardom was honed and perfected. Reflection and retrospect are integral components of this project, as Alessia often employs the benefits of hindsight to boast added wisdom on the topics at hand. ‘Seventeen’ sonically hits like a pop-anthem reminiscent of recent Taylor Swift joints, but it lyrically nods to the advice our parents give us in our teenage years—advice we’d later look at and understand from a more developed perspective. It’s hard to believe Alessia Cara didn’t write original music prior to her material released through Def Jam, as through solely leaning on her own experiences and collaborative guidance from decorated writer Sebastian Kole she has already developed poignant, original, and opinionated perspectives within her music.
Standout song ‘Outlaws’ flaunts Alessia’s pen in the most impressive ways, as she exhibits the ability to not only say something with her music, but to tell you something. She simultaneously bobs and weaves through chords with a sweet, tender melody while also slowly unfolding a bubbly and emotive infatuation with a love interest. The metaphors and practically visual sense of storytelling will remind you of writers like Frank Ocean or Ed Sheeran. ‘I’m Yours’ is similarly vivid and robust in imagery, but it’s a little less spirited and a little more fragile. Alessia shrivels into a vulnerable subject of someone else’s impeding love, as she feels helpless in succumbing to these imminent, foreign emotions.
The song structure here is far from experimental and nothing to marvel at, but the tracks given to us on this EP impose their profoundness on the stories being told. With Four Pink Walls, Alessia Cara is able to flawlessly carve her own stories into a familiar lane and keep us invested. With the other pop-princesses coexisting with Alessia putting out records about substance-induced elation, Four Pink Walls offers the story of the teenage wallflower finding solace in solitude. Although this five-track project is meant to be a prelude to Alessia’s giant album coming this Fall, she’s already made us feel like we know her well, and she’s already changed the climate of pop music in 2015—for the better.