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Sunday August 18, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday August 18, 2013 MYT 8:06:31 AM
By CHESTER CHIN
AFTER her massive major label debut single (Love Song) six years ago, Sara Bareilles has worked hard to keep her career within mainstream range. It helped that her album Kaleidoscope Heart in 2010 debuted atop the Billboard 200 chart, too.
As a late bloomer, Bareilles’ music DNA can be traced back to Hotel Café, a live music venue in Los Angeles that has been a platform for promising acoustic-based female singer-songwriters such as Anna Nalick, Ingrid Michaelson and Priscilla Ahn to hone their craft over the years.
These days, most of the 33-year-old’s contemporaries have ebbed away to obscurity after garnering much buzz early on in their career. But unlike her peers, Bareilles has managed to find a formula that successfully blends adult contemporary flair with pop music’s commercial appeal.
The California native has kept to that blueprint in The Blessed Unrest, her fourth full-length studio effort. There’s an assortment of catchy light pop confections and powerful ballads that illustrate Bareilles’ brilliant artistry. Where creative ambition is concerned, Bareilles is moving in the right direction.
Lyrically, the album sees her tackling some pretty heavy themes. Beneath the vivacious veneer of lead single Brave, Bareilles sings about a friend’s struggle with his sexuality.
“You can be amazing, you can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug/ You can be the outcast, or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love/ Or you can start speaking up,” sings Bareilles, with a heartfelt voice, on the inspiring lead single. Think of it as Lady Gaga’s Born This Way sans the cheeky undertone.
And on Manhattan, Bareilles takes inspiration from New York’s architecture and sandy beaches to craft an achingly beautiful post-breakup song.
Bareilles does contemplative as well as she does heartbreaks as evident on the evocative 1000 Times. Gripping and downright honest, the track is easily one of the best numbers on The Blessed Unrest. As far as pop sensibility is concerned though, tracks such as Hercules, Little Black Dress and Eden wouldn’t require a lot of effort to warm up the casual listener’s palate.
With The Blessed Unrest, Bareilles has crafted a collection of clever pop that’s a welcoming respite from aimless mainstream noise.
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