Emmy Rossum. You’ve probably heard her name before, more than likely associated with the 2004 film adaptation of the Phantom of the Opera. The film shot Rossum to stardom, and she was recognized for her stellar acting performance, as well as her extraordinary vocal talent.
Then, besides small roles in The Day after Tomorrow and the box office failure, Poseidon, Rossum basically fell off the map. Despite being hailed as Hollywood’s next young starlet, Emmy Rossum was no where to be seen.
Let’s fast forward to this summer. Celebrity gossiper, Perez Hilton posted a single from a rumored upcoming album from Rossum on his website. The song, Slow Me Down, sounded more Imogen Heap than operatic, and the sound both amazed and confused me. I immediately bought Rossum’s three song EP from iTunes, fell in love with the songs on it, and bought her debut disc the day it was released.
Inside Out isn’t what you’d expect an album from Rossum to be. She made the choice to stray from the “popera” route (think Josh Groban or Charlotte Church), and instead released an album of ambient pop music, which works pretty well for the most part.
The aforementioned first single appears first, and is a fantastic opener to the album. We are immediately greeted with the sounds of Rossum lightly harmonizing, and her vocals are treated to a sort of electronic effect that’s quiet reminiscent of Frou Frou or even Enya. The first verse is fast paced and frenzied and creates a literal example of the lyrics (“My head and my heart are colliding chaotic/Pace of the world I just wish I could stop it/Try to appear like I’ve got it together/I’m falling apart”), but the light and airy chorus gives off a calmer vibe (“Slow me down/Don’t let me live a lie/Before my life flies by/I need you to slow me down”). Rossum’s vocal range isn’t highlighted much in this song (or in most of the others on the album), but the focus is more on her tone, which is quite lovely, and she’s more than pleasant to listen to.
The title track, Inside Out, appears next, and is presented with less production than the song before it. The emphasis this time is more on the lyrics (which were co-written by Rossum herself. All of the songs on the album, with the exception of one, were also co-written by Rossum), and the vocal harmonies in the chorus. The sentiment of wanting to be accepted for who you are, both inside and out, is quite relatable, and Rossum gets the point across well with direct lyrics (“Unsew my seams/Look inside if you dare/Do you still like what you’re seeing now/…Will you take me/As I am/Inside out”). The pretty melody paired with the earnest lyrics makes the song one of the album’s standouts.
Stay was included on the EP of Inside Out, and is another of my favorites. The sound is quite similar to Slow Me Down, though this time around, the song is used as a plea for a lover to stay (“Stay/Darkness take over now/Stay/No thinking twice/Stay for tonight/The sound of your heart racing faster for me /Is what will save me”). Though some elements of the song sound similar to Slow Me Down, the overall sound is a bit more accessible, and I could see this song doing well as a single. Falling was another track on the EP and is another highlight. The song again posses a similar sound to the ones before it, while the lyrical focus this time on falling in love. The lyrics present the image of someone afraid of falling in love, yet ready to do so at the same time- nothing particularly unique or groundbreaking, but Rossum’s sweet-sounding voice and the poppy melody are what truly make the song.
The CD really gets interesting for me, however, at The Great Divide. Musically, the song is one of the best on the album. It begins slow, and like a hushed ballad, before adding in electronic effects during the choruses and second verse. The sounds are understated, but give the song an airy/dreamlike feeling that is incredibly pleasing to the ears. The middle of the song breaks for an instrumental, which includes echoes of Rossum lightly harmonizing with handbells in the background. Also, because of the stripped production, Rossum’s vocals finally stand out much more. We are able to hear the strength of her voice, especially during the choruses. Lyrically, the song is pretty bare (most of it relies on the repetition of “Are you listening?” and “I need you now”), but the verses are written well (“Reach across the great divide/See the war behind your eyes/Finally slow the racing clock/Try so hard to make it stop”).
Though pretty forgettable, I do enjoy listening to Lullaby, which actually does sound like an adult’s version of a lullaby. Again, Rossum’s angelic vocals fit in perfectly with the song, and it’s apparent that either Rossum or her producers know exactly what kinds of songs she sounds good singing, which can’t be said about all artists (and is, in fact, a hard thing for a singer to determine).
The album hits a bit of a lull (heh…I crack myself up with these puns), at this point in the disc. Don’t Stop Now sounds a bit similar to some of Madonna’s more recent electric-pop stuff, which, for the record, I don’t really care for. The song isn’t particularly offensive, but it doesn’t make much of a stand either. High is a mid-tempo number that’s not the least bit memorable; in fact, I didn’t realize it was one of the tracks on the album until just listening to it now. Even the lyrics (about feeling a “high” while being in love) are pretty generic. A Million Pieces actually isn’t a bad song, but I usually forget about it because it’s lumped with some of the bores on the album. The lyrics are actually quite appealing to me, (“Shiver cold, I stand alone/Feel the slow dissolve/Black clouds rolling overhead/Part of me is gone/Like water now within my hands/You’re nothing I can hold/As every second slips away/I’ve nothing left to show /I’m under without you now/I’m in a million pieces/Under/I’m not myself if you say I am not yours”) but the dull melody doesn’t make the song stay in my mind after listening to it. The weakly composed chorus yearns to be better than it is, but ends up falling flat for some sad reason.
Rossum stated in an interview that one of her favorite songs from childhood was the old Carpenters classic, Rainy Days and Mondays, and she remakes it on the album. The song opens with Rossum’s now trademark vocal harmonizing and electronic effects, before fading into the original melody of the song. For the most part, she sticks to the original song, and the result is a pleasant, and very boring, track. My golden rule for remakes is to just stay away unless you can somehow improve on the original or breathe new life into it. Unfortunately, Rossum’s treatment does neither, and while the song isn’t a total miss, it isn’t a hit on the album either.
The disc comes to a close with Anymore. The song is apparently autobiographical; Rossum’s father left their family when she was younger and the lyrics paint the picture of her feelings quite perfectly (“When she was younger, stood staring at the door/Waiting for the day that she knew would surely come/Tied bows in her hair, dressed as she thought you’d like/But as time ticked away, promises fade one by one /And now she’s all grown/Made it through on her own/Now strong enough to see/That you’ve been where you want to be”). The vulnerability of the lyrics are expressed perfectly by the amount of emotion in Rossum’s vocals- her voice even cracks a few times during the verses, which gives the song a more personal, raw, touch to it. The cello arrangement and piano are also nice touches to the song, and though the track is intended to be uplifting (“No longer dying inside/I will not let you define/Everything I am by one thing that I don’t have/Cause I’m more than that”), it can be a bit of a downer, and a somewhat dreary choice to close to the album. Still, the song is the most poignant and emotional track on the album, and another of my favorites.
Sadly, Emmy Rossum’s singing career hasn’t caught on with the rest of the American public. As of November, the disc had only sold a disappointing 7,500 copies in the U.S. I blame the lack of sales on the lack of promotion for both the album and Rossum’s singing career, rather than her talent or the strength of the album. Inside Out is a good album, especially so for a debut, and Rossum is very talented. I’m hoping that more people will eventually catch on to her sound, and give her music a listen.
1. Slow Me Down
2. Inside Out
5. The Great Divide
7. Don’t Stop Now
9. A Million Pieces
10. Rainy Days And Mondays