Sara Bareilles CD Review: Careful Confessions

With a feminine voice that can stand its ground in a tidal wave of pop, jazz, and soul artists, Sara Bareilles pens intelligent lyrics that anyone of any age can appreciate. Not only that, but she is instantly likeable and her songwriting is honest.

With distinguished yet familiar sounding vocals, Bareilles won a buzz all over her college town of L.A. by playing at festivals and university venues. Signed to Epic Records last April, she quickly transitioned from amateur to professional recording artist with a featured track on the Monster-in-Law soundtrack and by opening for Maroon 5’s college tour last fall.

Grab a copy of her debut album, and you’ll see just how deserved Bareilles buzz is. Careful Confessions opens up with a delicate yet rich “Gravity,” piano setting the stage for classy jazz vocals. But if you are expecting an entire album of mellow, Norah Jones-like songs, you are in for a surprise. By track two, guitar and drums are thrown into the mix creating more of an edge.

Bareilles switches up her style from track to track providing the listener with an inventive (and thus genre-less) album. “Love on the Rocks” is pure fun as the album’s third track – it has a musical theater quality without going over the top. Sounding like a female Ben Folds, Bareilles recorded “Fairytale” as an imaginative ode of unmet expectations in love and life. But don’t get too used to that style – on “Come Round Soon,” Bareilles busts out bold, soulful vocals like she’s the next member of Destiny’s Child.

Religious references to everything from angels and wise men to forbidden fruit are sprinkled throughout Bareilles lyrics, but she fails to drives home strong convictions of any sort. She’s much better at penning clever, soul-searching lyrics dancing around the theme of love. (“Why wear my heart on my sleeve when it looks so good in your hand?”) But there’s also a depth to her music that shows she is in a stage of life where she’s still looking for her identity: “In these deep city lights/A girl could get lost tonight/I’m finding every reason to be gone/Nothing here to hold on to…/I feel like I’m fading away.”

Perhaps on Bareilles next album, she’ll discover who she is both personally and musically and stick to a more defined style. But the mishmash of musical approaches represented on the album certainly does not discredit Bareilles as an artist – it’s more like an entry-level job portfolio showing all of her best work.

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