Vanessa Carlton – Be Not Nobody

In the past, music options for teens have been slim and easily categorized – Rap: fast-paced, incoherent; Pop: high-strung, bouncy, dramatic; Techno: wild, adrenaline-filled; Rock: heavy, diverse, classic. New waves of punk and emo have only added new species to an existing genus. Teen music as a whole is creeping toward complete stagnation. There has been expansion, but little real growth. Music lovers can only sit back in frustration and wait for an eruption.

That long-awaited eruption came last year when Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” hit the charts and blew apart the rigidity of musical categories. Listening to her debut album, “Be Not Nobody,” I wondered, What is it?

There’s no precise answer, and this is what makes Carlton’s music so incredible. It’s rock, it’s classical, and it’s something entirely independent. Every song is not just a window, but a microscope into the artist’s soul.

During her teen years at ballet school, Carlton struggled against its rigid rules, expressing her triumph over this on a dorm piano. It is obvious that Carlton studied and loves music. Yet, you almost get the sense that she never listened to popular music before creating her album.

With the exception of a disappointing revision of the Stone’s “Paint It Black,” each song is an anthem to an individual soul and an unrepeatable experience. Carlton’s music is charming and wonderful because we get the sense that she is bold enough to write it to please herself first.

“Pretty Baby” is an adorable tribute to unhindered affection. It is an echo of naive love. The song is sweet, though not sugar-coated, but full of its own flavor of wonder, surprise and adoration.

“Ordinary Day” is a track that cannot be played just once. With each repetition, a new petal on the blossom of its soulful strains unfolds. The piano belts out chords not as an accompaniment, but as a soulful entity.

“Be Not Nobody” is a journey through life, each song a snapshot of an emotion or experience. The playful passion of the piano deepens each song’s dive into the listener’s soul.

Carlton’s undulating, youthful and unstrained voice dances across the melodies with individualistic beauty. “Be Not Nobody” is a gentle explosion, and this is only the beginning..

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