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Album review: Alessia Cara’s debut is about young love with grown-up sheen

Alessia Cara’s new album is about teenage love with the singer introducing it with a grown-up sheen.
Alessia Cara learnt to play the guitar at 10 and started her YouTube channel three years later. Getty Images
Alessia Cara learnt to play the guitar at 10 and started her YouTube channel three years later. Getty Images

Know-It-All

Alessia Cara

(Def Jam)

Three and a half stars

A sure sign of getting older is when contemporary pop stars begin to sample songs that you vividly remember being released the first time around.

So it is with precocious 19-year-old Canadian pop starlet – and friend of Taylor Swift – Alessia Cara, and specifically her hit single, Here.

The song samples Glory Box by British trip-hoppers Portishead, which originally hit the airwaves almost 21 years ago.

It is to Cara’s credit that its early inclusion on her debut album isn’t an overly keen splurging of what, in other hands, could be novelty one-hit-wonder material.

Indeed, while Know-It-All is chock-full of youthful declarations of love and devotion, articulated in the language of star-crossed teenaged lovers, it is presented with a grown-up sheen way beyond the average 19-year-old.

Perhaps that’s not surprising, because Cara has been playing music for half of her life. She learnt to play the guitar at the age of 10 and started her own YouTube channel, posting videos of her performing cover versions, three years later.

The opening track, Seventeen, has her recalling “being afraid of the dark” and “holding on to teddy bears” among a host of other growing pains. The aural results are nonetheless thoroughly mature and idiosyncratic.

Elsewhere, Outlaws is like Bonnie and Clyde: The Teen Edition. It is curiously romantic, in a sweetly naive way, with Cara declaring that “if they lock us away/ Then I’ll be still here/Proudly waiting to kill more time, with you”.

On the flip side, Scars to Your Beautiful lays down the be-who-you-are mantra, in a manner that Miley Cyrus probably wishes she was eloquent enough to manage (key couplet: “You don’t have to change a thing/ The world could change its heart”).

There’s probably still time for a Miley-style image overhaul/massive public breakdown, however, based on the evidence of closing effort, My Song, in which Cara declares that “good girls don’t make history”.

Where other painfully young female pop proteges, such as Ariana Grande, struggle to sound truly genuine in their craft, Cara already seems to have her “voice” well and truly nailed down, with splashes of the nous that the album title suggests.

While Cara is in no way the finished article, there are hints that she could contribute something distinctive in what is an increasingly saturated and bland pop scene. All in all, Know- It-All, is a fine first effort.

aworkman@thenational.ae

Updated: January 12, 2016 04:00 AM

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