Album Review: Sara Bareilles, “Little Voice” (2007)

Sara Bareilles could is the stereotypical artist whom worked their way up to fame.  The singer-songwriter started her career in college, singing in UCLA’s a capella group, Awaken A Capella.  After college, she began playing in small bars and cafes, hoping to catch a break.  She released her debut CD in 2004 with very little fanfare, but it wasn’t until 2007 that she really saw mainstream success.

Little Voice is Bareilles’ sophomore album, and shot her to fame after the first single, Love Song, became a chart-topping hit.  Bareilles’ sound is mostly composed of piano-heavy melodies, strong vocals and clever songwriting- making for pop music perfection.

The album begins with the aforementioned single, and starts right off with one of those heavy piano intros that I mentioned.  Bareilles’ pounds on the same chords throughout the song, as she sings her way through a fun, and extremely catchy song.  “I’m not gonna write you a love song,” Bareilles sings during the chorus, and the lyrics are actually a nod at the struggle that she originally had with her recording company when she first began working on her album.  At any rate, the song is absolutely wonderful; Bareilles is quite talented vocally, and she definitely shows off her talent during this bouncy, delightful little number.

Another pleaser follows with Vegas.  The tempo gets taken down a notch, and an electric guitar and drums get added in, giving the song a sultry, slow sort of vibe.  I can almost imagine Bareilles singing this song in a cramped little café on a rainy day, especially as the lyrics describe someone dreaming of success and fame (“Gonna quit my job and move to New York/’Cause somebody told me that’s where/Dreamers should go/Gonna quit my job and move to New York/And tattoo my body with every Broadway show.”).

“There’ll be girls around the nation that will eat this up; babe, I know that’s it your soul, but can you bottle it up?”  Bareilles sings at the beginning of Bottle It Up.  The backing drums and piano remind me of something you’d hear in a Fiona Apple song, and both vocally and lyrically, Bareilles does mind me a bit of Apple, though an upbeat, happier version of her.  This song is a perfect example of this- though the lyrics are snide and sarcastic (“Started as a flicker meant to be a flame/Skin has gotten thicker but it burns the same/Still a baby in a cradle got to take my first fall/Baby’s getting next to nowhere with her back/Against the wall.”), the music is still upbeat and cheerful, and something you’ll want to listen to on a warm summer day.

The album slows down with One Sweet Love, the first ballad on the album.  Acoustic guitar highlights Bareilles’ vocals in the simplistic song that is- naturally, about love (“Ready and waiting for a heart worth the breaking/But I’d settle for an honest mistake in the name of/One sweet love.”).  Still, the lyrics are refreshing, and Bareilles’ vocal delivery is absolutely lovely.

I take back my Fiona Apple comparison from before- the real comparison can be drawn with the next track, Come Round Soon.  From the opening lyrics (“I could use another cigarette/But don’t worry daddy, I’m not addicted yet/One too many drinks tonight and I miss you/Like you were mine”), to the deep, seductive way that Bareilles sings them, makes the song seem like an update to Apple’s hit, Criminal.   The song actually seems to have a mixture of influences.  While the verses remind me of Apple, the upbeat, drum-based choruses remind me of Maroon 5.  Oddly enough, Bareilles was associated with Maroon 5’s first band, Kara’s Flowers, when she was in college.  Even though the song seems to borrow from a mixture of sounds and influences, the track does stand on its own and is a nice addition to the album.

Sara Bareilles

Now we’ve reached the less exciting part of the album.  Morningside arrives prematurely as one of the first tracks on the album that I usually skip.  Sure, the chorus is breezy and appealing (“I could try to forget what you do when I let you get/Through to me but then you do it over again/I could rage like a fire and you’d bring rain I desire/Til you get to me on my Morningside”), but that’s only one small part of the song, and the verses seem to drag.   Between The Lines is a pretty enough ballad, and again, I must say that Bareilles is incredibly talented vocally.  However, no matter how beautiful her voice is, I can’t stand to stomach this dreary, colorless song.   Love On The Rocks is a bit funkier than the other songs on the album, namely thanks to the groovy bass line, but the song is still lacking the punch it would need to stand out.  Meanwhile, City presents itself so quietly that it’s easy to forget the song is on the album altogether.  The hushed piano and vocals are nice, but nothing special.  The song sounds like one you’d hear in a romantic comedy after the couple has broken up, and realized that they really need each other after all- dull.  Many The Miles is a fairly decent, upbeat number, which really just feels like a watered-down version of Love Song.
Luckily, things brighten back up with Fairytale, a charming little song, with cleverly written lyrics (“Cinderella’s on her bedroom floor/She’s got a/Crush on the guy at the liquor store/Cause Mr. Charming don’t come home anymore/And she forgets why she came here/…Cause I don’t care for you fairytales/You’re so worried ’bout the maiden though you know/She’s only waiting on the next best thing”).   The song is likeable mainly due to the tongue-in-cheek lyrics, but Bareilles’ vocals are strong as ever, and the bouncy piano melody also adds to the song’s delight.

The best, however, is saved for last, with Gravity.  This song is the strongest on the album, and my absolute favorite of all the tracks.  It begins quietly, with just a few keys being played on the piano.  Bareilles comes in to sing the first verse (“Something always brings me back to you/It never takes too long.”), and her passionate delivery draws you right in.  The song is stunning; Bareilles’ vocals are at top form here, especially as she holds a very long note towards the end of the song.   Lyrically, the song tells a dramatic, and for me, at least, wonderfully relatable tale (“I live here on my knees as I try to make you see that you’re/Everything I think I need here on the ground/But you’re neither friend nor foe though I can’t seem to let you go/The one thing that I still know is that you’re keeping me down”).  Again, the lyrics combined with Bareilles’ stellar vocals creates for a stunningly beautiful finale to the album.

I’m not sure if Sara Bareilles with be famous ten years from now, but she’s definitely got the chops, and songwriting talent to deserve a successful career in pop music.  Little Voice is a solid album, though I still think she has a lot of room to grow in her career, which is certainly not a bad thing.

Rating: 200px-4_stars.svg

Track Listing
1. Love Song
2. Vegas
3. Bottle It Up
4. One Sweet Love
5. Come Round Soon
6. Morningside
7. Between the Lines
8. Love on the Rocks
9. City
10. Many the Miles
11. Fairytale
12. Gravity


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