In 2010, the world fell in love with Perri’s voice when her debut single, “Jar of Hearts” was featured in an episode of popular TV show, So You Think You Can Dance. Within weeks, Perri’s single had hit the top charts and the artist was signed, with a great future ahead of her as a respectable pop singer.
However, the nasally, all-too-cheerful voice that permeates Christina Perri’s sophomore album, Head or Heart, is almost unrecognizable to the artist’s original material that launched her to fame. In “Jar of Hearts,” Perri proved herself as a serious artist in the raw power of the song. With a delicate, somber piano melody to support her, Perri poured her emotion into her deep and raspy voice as she berated the lover who left.
With this album, however, Perri lets the background music overpower her. Perri’s voice, which for some reason sounds as though it was recorded with her nose pinched shut, no longer commands the spotlight. Instead, the artist depends on oversimplified, catchy melodies with enjoyable drum rhythms and repetitive refrains to mimic the general “Top 40” sound.
Thematically, the lyrics of this album are largely skin deep. Perri either sings about trusting or not trusting love–oscillating between the two until you just want to make her make up her mind. This lack of lyrically sound material results in a large amount of repetition that just serves to bore. “Be My Forever,” a collaboration with Ed Sheeran, is unfortunately a prime example of this, as the two seem to repeat the same “be my forever” phrase for the entire duration of the song.
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Of the thirteen songs that made the cut for this album, the most redeemable piece is easily “Human,” a somber ballad that is most reminiscent to Perri’s style that once secured our respect in the competitive pop genre. The lyrics move slightly past the whole “to love or not to love” theme of the album, as Perri instead focuses on the pressure and inability to be perfect. Perri belts over an emotional piano melody, “I can take so much/ ‘Til I’ve had enough/ Cause I’m only human/ And I bleed when I fall down.” However, even at the song’s culmination, it is neither lyrically nor melodically as impressive as Christina’s original work. The emotion just isn’t as pure or compelling.
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In all, it seems as though Christina teeters on the dangerous line of becoming a clichéd pop artist – of sacrificing her originality for a synthetic, catchy sound for the sake of staying at the top of the charts. At its best, Head or Heart, contains small glimpses into the old Christina, particularly in ballads like “Sea of Lovers” and “Burning Gold.” At its worst, however, this album is a sad departure from Perri’s signature sound and an example of yet another artist getting lost in the demands of modern pop genre.
Voices Choices: “Human,” “Burning Gold”
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