Alessia Cara: Know-It-All | Virgin Media
Alessia Cara: Know-It-All

Alessia Cara: Know-It-AllAlbum review by Ian Gittins | Rating: ★★★★☆

11/03/2016

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It's no easy task to make a teen-targeted pop album that throbs and zings with irresistible tunes. It's even harder to do so and to make it sound somehow profound.

Canadian tyro Alessia Cara has achieved this laudable feat with Know-It-All, a debut album of tremulous, big-hearted R&B and soul-pop that intrigues as it enchants. It's a vivacious, utterly contemporary record by somebody who appears to have a quite remarkably level head on her 19-year-old shoulders.

This precocious maturity surfaces on opening track Seventeen, a pristine, Lorde-like rumination on suffering intimations of mortality in her teens: fearing winter in spring. The tune could be a Miley Cyrus trinket but the words bite far, far harder.

1.	Vito Corleone

Better yet is Here, her US breakthrough and huge hit single set around the same shimmering, lustrous Isaac Hayes sample that underpinned Portishead's Glory Box. A song about hating being at a hipster party performed by a self-proclaimed "anti-social pessimist", it sounds very teenage because, well, Cara is.

She possesses a rich, keening R&B vocal that can recall Solange or Shontelle. There are also trace elements of her hero of her youth, Amy Winehouse: the spirited retro-soul of Outlaws lacks Amy's biting directness and heart-on-scarred-sleeve honesty, but that is hardly a crime. Most people do.

Know-It-All pinballs between styles at times. The euphoric yet vulnerable rave-pop of I'm Yours could be Sia, while the hip-hop soul of Four Pink Walls recalls early Alicia Keys, or Lauryn Hill at her least strident. Wild Things' sleek R&B brandishes a fine, poetic accusation: "I lose my balance on these eggshells you tell me to tread".

It's not all so consummate and the melodramatic, overwrought Overdose verges on the cheesy. Yet the similarly charged, piano-driven power ballad Stars works and bleeds vermilion as Cara provides a masterclass in controlled melisma, her thorax vibrating with seemingly scarcely containable passion.

Just for good measure, the closing Scars To Your Beautiful is a clear-eyed and defiant female empowerment anthem set to – and here is the key – an absolutely magniloquent R&B beat. For one so young, Know-It-All is a strikingly possessed debut.

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