Alessia Cara immediately emerged as one of the year’s notable new artists with her shocking single, “Here.” For a first single, it’s not what you might expect. Slinging together verses to a slinky beat, Cara writes as the impossibly cool outsider, and throws the glamor of parties down the drain. Throughout the rest of her album Know-It-All, she only broadens her horizons. Her songs are thrilling, new, and utterly her own. Having gone on tour with singing icons from Taylor Swift to Coldplay, the young songstress was reportedly signed on to a record label by Drake himself.
Her songs are good because they’re vivid, bursting with imagery. As a young girl, her hopes, fears, and dreams feel deeply honest, even universal. “Seventeen” begins the album with her bold, unapologetic voice. As we discover throughout her songs, she’s shamelessly down-to-earth, an adventurer with serious heart. “Four Pink Walls” gives us a tour of the room that shaped her dreams, and in “Wild Things,” she emerges as the smooth social crusader. In her own words, truly and completely “wild.” From fierce declarations to glowing love songs, even in “River of Tears,” Cara’s voice is extremely close. Nothing is glossed over, or covered up. In many ways, the rawness is rewarding. Cara reveals the tender skin under the scars that make her album so strong.
And always, her voice is there like a beacon, raw and layered and rich. She shows a knack for different flavors, as “Outlaws” is an older, funkier tune, exploring young adventure. Songs of sadness only make her stronger. “Stone,” featuring Sebastian Kole is gentle, as her classically quick lyrics are slowed down to an honest, compelling ballad. “Overdose” simmers with anger and regret, while “Stars” offers Cara’s open, exposed voice to the sky. Even the bonus addition of “Here (2:00 AM Version)” is rich, smart, and just engrossing.
In other parts of the album, Cara’s voice bites deep and fast. Before you know what hit you, her words roll over her tongue like a rap. But like the song “Here,” they’re even classier when paired with a fat beat. “I’m Yours” is snappy, pounding, and deals with love with no nonsense. Again, her words cascade over each other like a waterfall, and in “Scars to Your Beautiful,” she proves bold beauty is the best, turning the critical eye from the inside to the outside world. Everything feels original, and real. “My Song” ends the album on a note that sits between the wild colors of the album: embracing her humanity fully, and reaching the top of her collection of fierce, proud songs. It ends with promise and acceptance, as well as the prospect of more to come. We hope so: she really does know it all.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.