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Alessia Cara - Know It All (Review)

Alessia Cara, Know It All

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

ONE OF 2016’s hot tips, Alessia Cara, releases her debut album and immediately makes a good impression.

The 19-year-old Canadian has already enjoyed a meteoric rise to prominence following the release of a series of YouTube covers of her favourite artists (from the Weeknd to Amy Winehouse). And with the singles Here and Wild Things raising her profile still further, Cara also found herself runner-up in in the BBC’s Sound of 2016 Poll.

What’s more, she’s also being tipped for big things by everyone from DIY Magazine to The Observer. And now that her debut LP has been unveiled, she’s worthy of the hype.

A self-proclaimed ‘anti–social pessimist’, Cara displays a maturity and sass beyond her tender years. Vocally, there’s traces of everyone from Winehouse to Rihanna. But she’s also got enough about her to make her own mark.

Here was a useful calling card, cleverly trading on the familiar but also displaying Cara’s ability to do something different. Boasting a languid R&B sound, as well as a sample from the Isaac Hayes’ instrumental Ike’s Rap 2 (also used by Portishead), this captures the attention immediately, yet also manages to drop a pulse-pounding chorus complete with the vocal prowess of both Rihanna and Beyoncé.

And if that was a decent calling card, then follow-up single Wild Things maintains the momentum in emphatic fashion. There’s tub-thumping, hip-hop/R&B infused beats and a sassy set of vocals to rival Rihanna, as well as a tribal backdrop that only enhances the dance appeal. It’s catchy as hell.

Elsewhere, Outlaws drops a kick-ass beat, some Winehouse-esque stabs of brass and a doozy of a chorus that, again, effortlessly slides into your subconscious; Seventeen kickstarts the album amid a flurry of feel-good thunder drums and oh oh oh harmonies, before dropping another euphoric chorus, and I’m Yours opens with the sort of beat arrangement that Timbaland would be proud to lay claim to, before flirting with the kind of ’80s influenced arrangements that Katy Perry used to churn out.

If there’s a criticism, it’s that Cara aims squarely for a tried and tested mainstream sound where its a little too easy to pick off the influences. But even then, she’s capable of delivering songs that are exciting and vibrant enough to endear in spite of this.

And she even manages a notable duet with Sebastian Kole on Stone, one of two ballads; a provocative line or two on songs like Overdose, in which she tackles a dangerously addictive relationship; and an emotive album-ending epic on the hard-hitting Scars To Your Beautiful, which layers on the atmospherics to powerhouse effect.

In short, Cara has delivered a debut that actually enhances her fast-growing reputation.

Download picks: Seventeen, Here, Outlaws, Wild Things, Scars To Your Beautiful, Overdose

Track listing:

  1. Seventeen
  2. Here
  3. Outlaws
  4. I’m Yours
  5. Four Pink Walls
  6. Wild Things
  7. Stone
  8. Overdose
  9. Stars
  10. Scars To Your Beautiful