Review Summary: While Red is a million miles away from the DIY recordings of her past, it is still undeniably Dia Frampton
Dia Frampton has an extended story on her blog that covers her entire life. It’s a long, rambling piece that lacks spacing between paragraphs and was definitely written in a stream of consciousness manner. It doesn’t matter, though, because she lays everything out superbly and the various emotions are imparted with ease. The most interesting part (as it relates to this album) is how she even got to this point in the first place. She explains, with her heart on her sleeve, how their major label debut didn’t sell very well and how they were eventually dropped. She talks about being down, but not out – about how they used the last bit of band savings to record an EP… all they could afford. Of course an EP wasn’t enough of a creative outlet, but they were officially broke – still down, but still not out. This lead to their fourth album, Cocoon
, being recorded in their mother’s living room and kitchen.
Unfortunately, the music side was finished but the business of promotion and touring simply proved too overwhelming. The band finally gave up – they were down and out getting real jobs. That’s where the television show The Voice
came in. It was simply a last ditch effort to try to promote the band and their best album, Cocoon
. Obviously, it turned into much more than they could have imagined. She ended up coming in second place overall, and her singles from the show were the best selling of all the contestants. Dia was suddenly the center of attention and the recipient of a brand new major label deal – a deal which was only for her. The name on the contract made little difference though, because Dia still included her old band whenever possible and the result is Red
– an album that has allowed Dia the ability to explore the glossier side of dance pop while still managing to sneak in the occasional nod to her indie roots.
The great thing about Red
is that Dia had a hand in writing every song, and it’s that personal stamp that allows the album to appeal to longtime fans despite its musical direction. Of course, it might initially be a little difficult for some to accept Dia singing over a slick dance-pop track such as “Don’t Kick the Chair” or “Good Boy”, but any issues should be short-lived. Red
is most certainly dominated by upbeat tracks full of sleek melodies and syrupy-sweet choruses, but they’re also one-hundred percent Dia Frampton. To that end, it doesn’t really matter that “Don’t Kick the Chair” has a hip-hop interlude courtesy of Kid Cudi or that “I Will” features country star Blake Shelton, because they all feature the same soul that made Meg and Dia albums so appealing. The initial shock of these dance tracks is also lessened by the fact that Dia was able to sneak a few indie-ish tracks onto the album, as well.
While quite a bit of the album is definitely comprised of the slick electro-dance pop, there are still a good amount of tracks that fall somewhere between Here, Here and Here
. These tracks, such as “Isabella”, mark a return to a more organic instrumental set and alt. rock foundation. Don’t get me wrong, they still have the same high-production sheen, but they’re otherwise everything long-time fans would expect. They’re sweet and instant, and feature the kind of choruses that simply won’t leave your head. Her first single, “The Broken Ones”, is actually a perfect example of what to expect from the album because it kind of skirts the line between her indie pop tracks and the slick dance pop (while sticking closer to the former). If there is a single track that sticks the closest to Dia’s roots it’s the folky “Daniel” – a song that is simply Dia and her guitar. The thing is, though, that the album is excellent regardless of what direction the current song is taking, and that’s what is really important.
The news that Dia was working on a solo album that was going to focus on the slick side of pop was a bit of a shock. It was made a bit more confusing because nobody really seemed to know if it was the new incarnation of Meg and Dia or truly a solo album. Now that Red
has been released, though, things should be much more obvious. Despite her band’s collaboration on particular tracks, this is very much a solo album and Meg and Dia is its own separate entity. This fact has allowed Dia to freely indulge in the dance side of pop music while maintaining her personal musical identity. That means that Red
is certainly not ‘indie’ by any means, but it is still not very far away from the sweet melodies and thoughtful lyrics of her fulltime band; only with a glossy sheen and a few more collaborators. With Dia Frampton’s personal stamp on each and every track, Red
has turned out to be an album that her longtime fans, as well as those that discovered her on The Voice
, can appreciate and enjoy.