Published Aug 28, 2015If any lyrics succinctly capture Alessia Cara's music industry experience so far, it's the very relatable refrain, "What am I doing here?" from the 18-year-old Brampton, ON singer's single "Here." Cara flipped YouTube covers into a Def Jam recording contract, and "Here" is a deserved hit with a well-paced walking melody and Winehouse-clever writing. The introvert's house party nightmare somehow begat an extroverted Tonight Show performance.
Pop stars used to be cast according to a strict industry playbook. Cara's ascension reveals an industry better equipped to partner with someone who's already proven her popularity. With Four Pink Walls, she steps into the limelight having already earned its lumens, but also with greater expectations than most new artists.
The EP, named for the partitions that defined Alessia's room and stage, features "Here" and four new songs: "Seventeen" employs big beat drums for a stadium-sound celebration of the year that changed Cara's life more than any other; "Outlaws" revisits the age-old lovers-on-the-run trope over nouveau-Motown piano and horn stabs; "I'm Yours" is the most pop of the bunch, with grand aspirations and decent execution. The EP title track provides the strongest cut here, though. A breakbeat and droning synth provide the canvas for an autobiographical reflection on Cara's quick rise that is grounded and relatable.
Cara's strengths lie in her anti-pop star polish and self-determined presentation, which are reflected strongly in her songwriting. There's still room for growth — lyrically, some of Cara's stacked phrases are overly reliant on harmonizing to make things mesh, and occasionally her vocals waver when they stray from her strong midrange — but Four Pink Walls is positioned as a warm up to her debut full length, and there's enough substance here to match and maintain expectations. (Def Jam)