Californian singer brings Common and Ryan Tedder aboard for album number three.
Mike Diver 2011
You can be forgiven for not having heard the name Colbie Caillat all that frequently. Although the Californian singer’s second album, 2009’s Breakthrough, was titled with increased public visibility clearly in mind, it failed to reach the UK top 100 (a disappointing performance, given her debut of 2007, Coco, peaked at 44). Not that the 26-year-old was all that bothered by her lack of British success – at home the record went to number one on the Billboard chart, going gold, and songs from it found their way to a number of film soundtracks and television series.
Caillat’s father, Ken, co-produced Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, and the singer is evidently influenced by such mainstream-approved, middle-of-the-road pop-rock. In the past her slickly realised, go-down-smooth songs have worked well as standalones, but have proven wearisome over the length of a long-player – for all their commercial successes, neither of her previous two albums have set the critical world alight. So Caillat deserves credit for daring to step beyond her comfort zone on this third LP, as working with new writing partners and even bringing in hip hop artist Common, who guests on Favourite Song. Also on board is Ryan Tedder, the OneRepublic frontman who has worked with artists including Leona Lewis and Beyoncé, and Rick Nowels, a multi-award-winner whose credits include material by Madonna and Dido.
So she’s built an impressive team for album three, but does everything click in the manner all concerned will have been hoping for? Yes, sometimes, but just as frequently no. The Common-featuring track has a Bruno Mars-style summertime vibe to it, and the rapper is a reliable presence on any recording. Shadow, a co-write with her partner Justin Young, features some of this album’s finest lyrics: "If you want to leave, then just go / Because I can’t get no sun in your shadow" – simple, easily understood, and memorable. A handful of almost-country numbers do little for the cause though, the syrupy twang of the title-track coming on like a half-baked Shania Twain number rather than anything nearing the all-conquering style of Lady Antebellum. The reggae-tinged Think Good Thoughts might feature the involvement of Grammy-nominated songwriter Kara DioGuardi, but she can’t do anything with a song that shuffles lifelessly for four minutes which feel like several more.
A few soft-focus, beachside strum-alongs stir thoughts of Jack Johnson, and fans of the Hawaiian singer will find much here of a similarly relaxing tone. But while there are standout moments on All of You, Caillat never truly imposes herself as a solo artist worth investing fully in. She sings prettily enough, but lacks the punch that the very best artists in this very crowded market possess. With the right set of songs, and just a pinch of grit, she’ll soar, and at times this collection so nearly nails it. But her breakthrough on this side of the Atlantic might just have to wait for another album.