Lyrically deep and musically adventurous, Michaelson has it all.
John Aizlewood 2012-07-20
Although she’s part of the female pop intelligentsia (see also: Fiona Apple, Kate Havnevik, Keren Ann and Regina Spektor), Staten Island’s Ingrid Michaelson has taken a very 21st century route to mass acceptance.
Her music has graced television programmes including Grey’s Anatomy and One Tree Hill, films and commercials for Google Chrome and Ritz crackers. Cheryl Cole notched up a top five single with a version of Michaelson’s Parachute.
She’s canny enough to own her music, but while she’s hardly paying her dues in the traditional way, frankly, so what? It’s effective and, four albums in (two of which were self-released), she’s an American star who’s done it the American way.
What’s more, she’s sauntering towards excellence. Human Again begins brilliantly with Fire’s Michael Nyman-style strings and piano introducing Michaelson, intoning “Oh-pen / Heart / Surgery,” before a walloping chorus, more of those strings and thumping, echo-laden drums take over.
Yet, for all the opener’s new-love uplift, Keep Warm’s cosiness and the way Michaelson can craft an instantly memorable chorus, these are adult songs for tricky personal times. They’re songs mostly hailing from the darkest of emotional hinterlands.
Here, distracted, disconnected men promise the world; but they can’t or won’t even deliver themselves. Ribbons forensically picks over relationship detritus, Do It Now anticipates relationship demise, and How We Love grapples with relationship misunderstanding. When a relationship survives on End of the World, the world does indeed end around it.
But much as Michaelson catalogues, yes, relationships obsessively, she’s less self-indulgent and more full of flair than her lyrical gloom threatens. In the Sea and Blood Brothers have layers of nuanced meaning, while she takes impish delight in musical curveballs such as Black and Blue’s near-electro thump.
Michaelson is doing nothing new. Intelligent female singer-songwriters, albeit ones lavishly produced by David Kahne (the only man alive to have produced Paul McCartney and Lana Del Rey), have been around since Joni Mitchell sang of ice cream castles in the air. But, as with the manner in which she rose, so what? Lyrically deep and musically adventurous, Michaelson has it all.