Review Summary: Good acoustic pop that doesn't deviate from the standard formula of the genre.
If you look at the history of modern music you’d probably notice that it seems to work in cycles. The cycle begins with a few bands that create something different than the current mainstream fascination. As the new sound becomes more public the genre becomes saturated with clones and the overall quality deteriorates. Eventually this deterioration leads to the decline of the genre and something else takes its place, but there does seem to be one exception. Pop music seems to actually thrive off over-saturation due to the “hit single” mentality of most of its fans, and the casual way in which they take in music. Of course there has been the occasional stand-out artist, but by pop’s very nature they are few and far between. Not including the few standouts, the pop genre is basically just a huge pool of bands without an identity of their own, and that includes Colbie Caillat.
The song, “Feelings Show”, exemplifies the generic pop formula of this album perfectly. Through its use of unobtrusive acoustic guitar, mild grooves and a subtle beat everything is simply a quick buildup to the chorus. What that means is that musically nothing really happens until the chorus begins and the song suddenly springs to life with increased energy, huge hooks, and memorable melodies. Her first single, “Bubbly”, with its minimal musical accompaniment based almost entirely on discreet percussion and subtle acoustic guitar is another great example. “Bubbly”, like all her songs, is simply pop-by-the-numbers where the verses seem like a quick race to get back to the catchy chorus. Of course, strong, memorable choruses are pop’s largest selling point, and the chorus on “Bubbly” doesn’t disappoint. Every song on the album follows the same basic formula of quiet, forgettable verses and big hooky choruses, but they’re all enjoyable despite their similarities.
As entertaining as the songs are there is still nothing that sets her apart from any of her contemporaries. While the music has to take some of the blame, Colbie Caillat has to take the main part. In pop music it is often the vocalist that helps set one artist apart from another, but there is nothing in her vocals or her lyrics to provide any differentiation. Her voice just isn’t powerful or dynamic enough to lend any exceptional elements to the songs. She simply sings in a restrained manner while sticking to a very limited vocal range, and lyrically things aren’t any less standard for the genre. Lyrically Colbie Caillat sings the same vague lyrics about relationships as most her contemporaries. Again, just like with the music, the lyrics do make for a good song such as on “Realize” which is about a potential perfect relationship if only the other person would just realize it, but they also do nothing to help her stand apart in the genre. None of her songs fall into the trap of becoming sulking, self-parodies but even songs such as “Midnight Bottle” that stray ever so slightly from the lyrical formula kind of overdo the relationship angle.
Due to the enjoyable quality of the songs I wouldn’t say that the complete lack of identity hurts the songs for people who merely want something simple, pretty and catchy. The problem is that there are plenty of other albums that are also simple, pretty and catchy which relegates this album to merely another good pop album in a sea of other good pop albums. It is that realization that stops me from actually recommending this album over anything else despite the overall quality of the songs, but if you find yourself in the mood for a solid acoustic pop album you can’t really go wrong with this one.