Alessia Cara’s defiantly grumpy breakthrough hit, “Here,” was about feeling like an “antisocial pessimist” who opts out of alcohol- and weed-tinged parties. On another single from her debut LP, “Wild Things,” the 19-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter declares that she won’t “hang around the in-crowd/The cool kids aren’t cool to me.” Okay, we get it – she’s not your average pop star.
Cara’s vocal performances on Know-It-All are loose and confident, recalling her early hero Amy Winehouse with the strong, jazzy chops she shows on highlights “Outlaws” and “Four Pink Walls.” And she’s comfortable enough to sing directly about her insecurities: “River Of Tears” is a moody heartbreak tale, in which she confides, “I realized that sometimes love builds you flowers and it builds you coffins” over soft harmonies and somber piano.
Like Lorde two years ago, Cara has a knack for turning relatable feelings of teen angst and alienation into pop songs that cut through the Top 40 clutter. Whether she can do it more than once is an open question – there’s nothing quite as sharp here as, well, “Here.” Like it or not, though, she’s one of pop’s cool kids now.