Rachel Platten, a vibrant and energetic singer-songwriter known for her bright pop anthems, is one artist who doesn’t need to worry about a “sophomore slump”. Her second full-length studio album, Wildfire, was released on January 1st and was a good start to 2016. It features twelve songs of various lengths and themes, including several love songs with different vibes.
Stand By You, the opening track, sounds like the standard pop song. It begins with a muffled vocal bit, breaking into a mellow love song saying that “even if [she] can’t find heaven, [she’ll] walk through hell with you”. Her skillful voice, shown off throughout this album, is powerful in both the upper and lower ranges, and she takes advantage of that talent. In the chorus, as it does in most choruses throughout the album, the instrumentation gets louder and more intense. Although it’s a tactic used by most pop musicians, it feels like too much at times as it overwhelms her voice. The next song, Hey Hey Hallelujah, starts off with the familiar crackle of a vinyl record being put on. The vocals are bolder and in her lower register, working nicely with the brass instrumentation and unique percussion. It’s a sultry and, theoretically (based on the lyrics), seductive song, but it sounds like it should be aimed more towards middle-school aged kids. Speechless is a variation on the first to songs, and although it still sounds like a typical pop song, there are some parts that stick out as great. Beating Me Up sounds like many other love songs on the radio, despite having some different percussive sounds and beats. The well-known single, Fight Song, is popular for a reason. It’s catchy, bouncy, uplifting, and relatable. It clearly strikes a chord with a large percentage of the population when Platten sings, “This is my fight song/take back my life song”. Better Place offers a bit of a change, showing off Platten’s voice the way it’s best showcased: with minimal instrumentation. This simple piano love song is pretty and peaceful, with vivid descriptions that take it from being simple to incredible. The next few songs are typical and similar to the rest of the album. Occasionally, there’s a touch of electronica or percussion that spices it up, but the rest of the album is nearly identical in sound and feeling.
Platten, an on-the-rise pop artist, is clearly doing something right. Although it can get repetitive and is clearly not for everyone, Wildfire has been spreading like wildfire across the nation. She’s clearly gifted in vocals. However, occasionally the background gets too overwhelming and overpowers her. Overall? A good album. Not one that I, personally, would listen to on repeat every day, but definitely good for a pick-me-up on a bad day or for my driving playlist.