Published Nov 12, 2015Alessia Cara, the 19-year-old musician/singer-songwriter from Brampton, ON, has had a good summer, if not a good year. The self-taught guitarist has been able to leverage her acoustic cover song performances that engaged YouTube subscribers to craft the pop-R&B hit "Here" that commandeered streaming sites and radio rotation this past summer. Cara maintains that her sound is "alternative pop," but her sound lays R&B, hip-hop and rock influences bare.
Her debut full-length, Know-It-All, is a dynamic expression of popular music, filtered through a lens of adolescent angst and determinism. The album's first five tracks, including "Here," are the same ones that comprised her Four Pink Walls EP released last August. What stands out more than ever, though, are Cara's distinctive vocals and rasp — confident, mature and unique — and the measured and thoughtful lyrical construction of the new songs.
Building off the outsider, rebellion theme that defined "Here," track "Wild Things" mines non-conformist sensibilities, "Scars To Your Beautiful" weaves a poetic self-determinist angle set to a booming, percussive pop beat and "Seventeen" still cleaves to the "wise-beyond-her-years" narrative that is both inspirational and insightful. Ballad "Stars" wears its mainstream considerations on its sleeve, with a "we can be anything" message that's competently crafted, if a little too pat. Highlight "Stone" revels in a buoyant acoustic verve, a future teen movie soundtrack anthem in the making.
The overall project comes off earnest and vulnerable without feeling preachy or forced. Know-It-All is clearly the end result of Cara's vision by way of major label collaboration. So while it's a tad formulaic, it's terrifically executed and solidly produced (shout out to Pop & Oak, Sebastian Kole and Kuya). Cara's debut is a striking standout pop record that portends career longevity. (Universal)