Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Lilith Fair 2.0

Within the past six months there has been a huge wave of piano- or acoustic-driven female singer-songwriters polluting the airwaves, Grey's Anatomy episodes, and commercials. In this post I will dissect the talent and promise of a four of the most prominent.

Colbie Caillat
Sounds like: Jack Johnson, hold the Hawaiian funk, let chill on a Californian beach. And, um, the female counterpart of her male counterpart Jason Reeves.
Publicity: Became a MySpace sensation beginning about a year ago, garnering thousands of friends. Many noticed the stark contrast between Caillat (pronounced Kah-lay) and the usual MySpace chart-toppers, which spanned the extremes of emo-pop outfits like Panic! at the Disco and sex-bomb personalities like Tila Tequila. Her single "Bubbly" was featured as a Single-of-the-Week on iTunes when it was released. Recently toured with fellow disciple-of-Jack Johnson, Brett Dennen.
The Good: Relaxed, laid-back, summery acoustic tunes, perfect for, erm, relaxing and laying back in the summer. Caillat's voice is soothing and deep, and lyrically, she knows exactly what her audience wants, and conveys each word with youthful sincerity. Just think about how her lyrics for "Bubbly" have popped up on virtually every female's Facebook profile.
The Bad: Despite knowing how to appeal to her audience, and believing fully in every word she croons, her lyrics are either hopelessly generic (My feet are stuck here against the pavement/ I wanna break free/I wanna make it) or painfully cutesy (It starts in my nose/Makes me crinkle my toes/Wherever you go/I always know/That you make me smile). And although her melodies are catchy and enjoyable, they can grow bland after multiple listens.
Verdict: Colbie Caillat is here for now, and as long as her head stays in the same songwriting mindset, she will continue to appeal to her core audience. However, she'll have to spice things up if she hopes to gain new fans.

Ingrid Michaelson
Sounds like: A less indie, less-orca (as in the whale)-ish Regina Spektor.
Publicity: Her single "The Way I Am" was featured in a recent Old Navy commercial, "Keep Breathing" was showcased in ultimate hit-maker Grey's Anatomy's season 3 finale. Currently touring with Matt Nathanson.
The Good: Her lyrics are witty and to-the-point, as displayed in "The Way I Am" (If you are balding/I'll buy you Rogaine). As she once said, she tries to fit as much message into as few words as possible. Her voice is a less-accented, yet otherwise dead-ringer, variation on Regina Spektor's. Also, on Ingrid's albums, she has perfected the balance of pretty, mournful Grey's Anatomy-closers and pretty, upbeat ditties. Also, she has great taste in music herself.
The Bad: Ingrid's feature in the Old Navy commercial, and the following success of "The Way I Am" may have slapped her as a one-hit wonder too early. If she wants to continue on a road of success, she'll need to prove her abilities by showcasing her other songs, whether by touring or selling the rights.
Verdict: Currently Ingrid is stuck in the middle of an odd spectrum. She is too mainstream (especially with the massive "The Way I Am" success) to appeal to an indie crowd, and yet to quirky to gain lots of radio play. She needs to choose which path she'd rather head down, and then head down full-speed, before her moment passes.

Sara Bareilles
Sounds like: A piano-driven, pop-rock princess, a sort of female Jon McLaughlin.
Publicity: "Love Song" was an iTunes single of the week, she is prominently featured in a DirecTV (?) commercial.
The Good: You can't get catchier than Sara. Everywhere I go I am followed by hundreds of earworms humming the hooky chorus of the ubiquitous "Love Song" (It's up to you whether this is a good or bad thing). Her tunes are layered, major-chord-drenched odes to love with too just enough sugar to not feel guilty about loving them. Her lyrics are fun and entertaining, if not wildly original. On "Fairytale," Bareilles reworks Snow White and other classics to display a humorous annoyance in men, and in "Love Song" she tells a lover that she won't write him a love song purely because he asked for one.
The Bad: Although Sara's melodies are ridiculously catchy, many find annoyance in her hooks and refrains. Remember Daniel Powter, and his hit "Bad Day?" I wouldn't be shocked if Bareilles and her "Love Song" ended up in the same graveyard.
Verdict: In this fad of pop-rock femme songwriters, Sara Bareilles seems to be at the vanguard. And if it truly is a fad, she could be gone in a year or two.

A Fine Frenzy
Sounds like: The aforementioned Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson, plus elements of the Watson Twins, and a heaping helping of melancholy.
Publicity: Was a free single on iTunes, toured with Brandi Carlile.
The Good: Frenzy is clearly talented. She has a strong voice, and a knack for lyricism and tunes that are emotional enough without losing her pop fan-base. Also, she's got enough quirk and not enough commercial use to retain at least some indie cred.
The Bad: Despite her talent and appeal, many of her melodies are too melodramatic and drippy, such as "Almost Lover," in which, despite her delicate and gorgeous voice, she moans too desperately to gain sympathy.
Verdict: If A Fine Frenzy stops listening to Morrissey and starts listening to more, um, positive music, there is some real potential for her talent. She already has widespread appeal, she just needs to, first of all, utilize it, and, second of all, not sound so frail when rejoicing about her lover (as in "You Picked Me").

Colbie Caillat
Ingrid Michaelson
Sara Bareilles
A Fine Frenzy


papaK said...

nice work,However Morrissey wasnt a great influence on A fine frenzy,that I'm aware of.
Hal Cragin

Karen said...

I am a fan of Colbie Caillat. I love her voice; it's different, and we need that.