Paris Jackson spent the first half of her life hidden from public view. Until she was 11, her father, Michael, sheltered Jackson and her brothers, covering their faces with masks in public. After his sudden death, the superstar’s children were thrust suddenly into public life, even appearing on TV in an interview with Oprah in 2010. Let’s just say that at 22, Jackson has been through a lot.
Despite this tumultuous upbringing, Jackson sounds remarkably even-tempered on her solo debut. Though the mood on Wilted is far from sunny, there’s little full-on tragedy or despair here. Instead, a cozily wistful melancholy prevails.
Strikingly, Michael’s presence isn’t felt here at all. You won’t hear any traces of her father’s falsetto glide or dynamic yelps in Jackson’s pleasant, if not especially expressive, often tinged with the sort of Gaelic burr you’d pick up from singing along to Cranberries records. Had she released the album under a different name or as part of a group (as she did with the Soundflowers, her country duo, which put out an EP earlier this year) you might not have thought about him at all.
And rather than attempting dance-pop or R&B, Jackson worked with Andy Hull and Robert McDowell of Manchester Orchestra, who create a sound not strikingly different than that of their Atlanta indie-rock group. Hull, who co-wrote most of the songs, is also responsible for the expansive and echoey production, dominated by electric guitars that chime then reverberate into infinity.
As a lyricist, however, Jackson struggles, either settling for commonplace turns of phrase like “Leave my body or take my soul” or overreaching to “Cut my eyelids/So i can’t see you float out the door/Burn my tongue out/Cause i don’t want to taste you no more” or “My heart ain’t something you can amputate.”
But very little of that will distract you from Jackson’s well-crafted indie-pop, dreamy stuff that the algorithm might slide into a recommended playlist if you’d been listening to Clairo and maybe Coldplay, and yes, most certainly Manchester Orchestra. Later that day you might happily recall a few of the melodies. But you might forget where you heard them.