"No scars to your beautiful / We are stars and we are beautiful,” is a line from Alessia Cara’s song “Scars to Your Beautiful.” Known for her relatable lyrics that soothe the listeners from the pains and hardships of life, she has gained a following that quickly catapulted her into stardom. However, her latest album Know-It-All (2017) does not seem to know anything at all about what a good album should be.
Alessia Cara is a singer-songwriter from Ontario, Canada, who has generated some mildly successful buzz around herself. Bornto an immigrant family, she started to learn how to play instruments when she was a young child, showing a particular talent for songwriting. Still, she is not your average pop singer, signing for Def Jam Recordings, a record label that focuses primarily on hiphop and R&B. While she is influenced by R&B, her vocals also have popular appeal, relying on epic backtracks to bolster her music.
The album kicks off with a catchy vocal inflection with beefy drums on the song “Seventeen.” It has a solid structure with impressive vocal tones that make up for the occasionally cheesy lyric such as“freezing time.” The backdrop before the hook has some sonorous instrumentation, which seems to be sampled from a whistled tune.
“Scars To Your Beautiful” is the crownj ewel of the album, where everything from the production to the epic backtracks to the vocal performance are executed with meticulous detail that makes it ten times better than the other filler tracks. The lyrics are written in a relatable manner as well, especially the chorus that conveys the theme that the world can change instead of the listener having to fit in.
“Four Pink Walls” is also an enjoyable track. Crisp drums and jazzy delivery evoke asense of serenity and passion at the same time, creating an engaging experience. Still, the real charm of the song is the lyrics, which represent an interesting take on Cara’s youth using the motif of the four pink walls of her room. The song is a prime example of masterfully incorporating small details into the subject of thoughtful introspection.
However, beside these tracks, the rest of the album seems to be a drab attempt to copy the stronger tracks mentioned above. “Outlaws” is a downgraded version of “Here” with terrible drum sequencing that makes Cara’s vocals seem offbeat. “I’m Yours” is a failed attempt at a groovy pophit with muddy synth production, predictable song structure, and average pop guitars in the background.
Listening to the album is a decent experience in that there is no absolutely terrible track that completely destroys the overall flow of the album. Having said that, it is not particularly impressive due to its average and typical pop songwriting. Know-It-All is aforgettable album, given that Cara’s current style is executed much better by her contemporaries, backed by songwriting andp roduction of higher quality. Although this is a well-meaning album with the intention of consoling the troubled, it unfortunately fails to resonate with listeners. If anything, the record is ironically swallowed by the turmoil and hardships it aims to overcome.
Most importantly, the problem seems to be that there is not enough of Alessia Cara in this record. Cara blatantly wears her influences on her sleeve, which makes this album a carbon copy of the world she lives in. It is just a record that is simply are petition of something else without much creativity involved. Records are called records for a reason and repeated records have little meaning and value, especially in the field of arts and music, which requires originality. In that sense, even though Cara tries to convey her life story through her first album, it remains a mediocre piece without noticeably outstanding qualities.