Melinda Ortner - I Wanna Be OK (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
MELINDA Ortner first came across our radar when she released the brilliant Strangers EP last year. She impresses even more now that her debut album, I Wanna Be OK, has arrived.
Boasting refreshingly honest lyrics and a keen mix of styles, this is a genuine showcase of Ortner’s talents as a singer and songwriter of the highest calibre. She can pull off a great ballad or a melody strewn pop favourite. And the world is her oyster right now.
It’s perhaps ironic, then, that one of the central themes of the songs is chasing dreams and the uncertainty that can sometimes accompany it.
As Ortner states: “While I am a huge advocate for chasing dreams, the pursuit of music as a career can be very trying, very discouraging, and more than anything scary as hell. I would of course like to feel OK about it all. I’m a stubborn one, a risk taker and when I want something, I tend to want it bad.
“I suppose the passion I hold for this thing, music, and all it entails lends itself to that notion of heavy chasing, and inevitably heavy falling. The higher up you are, the more it’s gonna hurt coming down.”
Hence, the album’s name. But Ortner would seem well placed to be OK. Her songs have a timeless appeal.
On one album highlight, Jezebella, for instance, there’s a rollicking guitar riff (reminiscent of Kenny Loggins’ Footloose) and feisty handclap beats to propel the song into your sub-conscious, while recalling the tale of a seductive rebel.
Similarly, album opener Wait Another Day opens with some fantastic string arrangements and a moody set of vocals, before blossoming into a terrific chorus that has a reflective, hopeful quality about it. It showcases Ortner’s ability to veer towards the cinematic too, instrumentally.
Title track I Wanna Be OK fully explores the fears and anxieties that accompany Ortner’s choice of life and career but is done in such a way that’s both endearing and radio-friendly. The composition of the beats owes a little to Massive Attack, albeit mixed with a more pop vibe once the chorus hits.
Elsewhere, Sweet Little Lies has a soulful pop feel about it that cleverly combines bittersweet harmonies with foot-stomping beats. It was a song inspired by an online dating experience.
Somethin’ Sorry, a tale of wandering eyes, also delivers more sultry vocals, some rousing piano chords and a toe-tapping vibe that gets into your head and refuses to shift. It’s another favourite.
Conversely, there’s the DIY kooky pop of Say Those Things, in which Ortner adopts a more innocent vocal style, and sets them against an Atari-style instrumentation to begin with. As the song unfolds, however, the beats and electronics become more intricately layered and assume a cuteness that’s enchanting.
When You’ve Got It All is mid-tempo balladry to swoon for (with a hint of Sia Furler’s smoky intensity), Strangers a haunting slice of atmospheric pop to savour and Maybe a doozy of a stripped down acoustic ballad that ends the album on a perfect note.
All told, this is a fantastic listen from start to finish. We’re willing to bet that Ortner is going to be more than OK.
Download picks: Jezebella, Wait Another Day, I Wanna Be OK, Maybe, Strangers, When You’ve Got It All, Say Those Things