Year of the Album — #036
Christina Perri – “Lovestrong” (2011, Atlantic Records)
There’s something to be said for having your strongest song featured in a brilliant dance routine on a major television dancing program. This particularly holds true when you’re an unsigned songwriter moonlighting as a waitress, because said featured dance can suddenly propel your song onto the Billboard Hot 100 and convince major labels to sign you and build a full album around that song. In the case of Christina Perri, that song was “Jar of Hearts,” and based on the additional material now available on Lovestrong, her Atlantic Records debut, it’s now clear she would have likely found success without So You Think You Can Dance, though to what level can certainly be debated.
What isn’t up for debate is the quality of the music here. While “Jar of Hearts” is still her strongest ballad, what stands out on Lovestrong is that Christina Perri wants to be the next Sarah Bareilles, even as she occasionally twists the musical knife into Regina Spektor territory. And trust me, there’s a lot of knife twisting going on here in the lyrics; if you think “Jar of Hearts” was a bitter taste of love lost, try listening to “Bang, Bang, Bang” and not wonder about the broken-down relationship that led to this material. “Word on the street is that she did to you what you did to me … bang bang bang, boy, you’re going down down down, boy,” she sings, “to the ground where you left my heart to bleed where she shot you, karma tastes so sweet!” All melded to a catchy pop chorus built on a fat bassline and raw piano stomp. This is top-notch pop, pure and simple.
But some of the best surprises are the ones where she gets to add a touch of Spektoresque flourish, as on “Mine,” with its off-kilter piano arrangement which constantly shifts in speed and tone, or the album’s closer, “Tragedy,” which melds a fiery, haunting cello with ominous piano chords and Perri’s dark, brilliant vocals. That song in particular sounds as though it would have been equally compatable with Nicole Atkins’ Mondo Amore, or on anything by Brandi Carlile. “I won’t be made a fool of, don’t call this love!” she sings before the song reaches its zenth and the transcendent melody fully warps its way into your mind. “Why did you feel the need to prove that everybody else was right? No, I won’t fight …you’re my tragedy!”
All told, Christina Perri’s Lovestrong more than lives up to the level hinted at by “Jar of Hearts,” turning that song into the dark center of what has to be the strongest breakup album to come out this year. She may not be love strong, but there’s defintely a sense of songcraft and originality to the music of Christina Perri which makes me look forward to what this songwriter’s going to do on future albums. This is definitely an album which packs an emotional whallop, and it’s well worth taking the time to discover.