Thursday, February 2, 2017

It's A Good Thing Ingrid Michaelson Said It Doesn't Have To Make Sense!

The Good: Voice, Moments of musical accompaniment
The Bad: SHORT, Unsettling album arrangement, Less clever lyrics than prior albums
The Basics: It Doesn't Have To Make Sense sounds more like Ingrid Michaelson is chasing the next ad campaign, as opposed to making a cool, cohesive, album!

Right before the winter holidays, my wife and I were out at a big store looking for gifts for one another, when she approached me gleefully with It Doesn't Have To Make Sense in her hand. I like the works of Ingrid Michaelson and she is one of the few female musical artists my wife actually enjoys. At that point, my wife was pretty desperate to find gifts for me (there are very few things I want anymore; the few things I truly do covet are exceptionally expensive and rare - or not for sale!), so I suspended my usual "three singles before I'll buy an album" rule and smiled and said, "yes please," to my wife. She bought the c.d. on the spot, but it took until today for us to actually get around to opening and listening to It Doesn't Have To Make Sense.

We ended up split on It Doesn't Have To Make Sense; I did not enjoy it, my wife did. When we completed our first listen to the album, my wife enthusiastically said "I liked it!" I was more neutral to it and after multiple listens to the album, I find I enjoyed a few of the tracks more as tracks, but still found the album to be comparatively poorly assembled. My wife, on the other hand, was singing along to even the tracks she admitted she did not like, though she did say that after multiple listens to the album, it was sadder than most music she likes to have on.

It Doesn't Have To Make Sense is a very short Ingrid Michaelson album. With only ten songs, adding up to only 35:45, It Doesn't Have To Make Sense is an odd collection of new songs all of which were cowritten by Michaelson (only two were written by the artist solo). Michaelson provides all of the lead vocals on It Doesn't Have To Make Sense and she plays piano on the songs. Ingrid Michaelson is also credited as a coproducer on It Doesn't Have To Make Sense.

There are few albums that leave me truly unsettled the way It Doesn't Have To Make Sense did. It Doesn't Have To Make Sense is an odd mix of up-tempo, danceable songs, heavily-produced anthems and stark, sad, ballads. The album is listenable, but it lacks a cohesiveness that many of Michaelson's other albums possess. As well, it is unfortunately derivative of other Ingrid Michaelson works. That element begins right away on It Doesn't Have To Make Sense. I am a big fan of Michaelson's song "Afterlife" on her prior album, Lights Out (reviewed here!); it is one of the few songs I ever crank up when I am alone listening to music. So, as I lay listening to my first listen of It Doesn't Have To Make Sense and the first track "Light Me Up" included Michaelson repeating the words "we are" the exact same way as she sang the words "we all" on "Afterlife," I actually cringed.

It Doesn't Have To Make Sense is beleaguered by writing that is unfortunately packed with cliches. Michaelson seems to have given up on trying to find a new way to express her thoughts on "Whole Lot Of Heart." Despite remaining catchy with the backing vocals, it is hard to get enthusiastic about the lines "You said there's something about the moon / It rose too soon / And we're doing what we should / You said it's life that moves too much / We're losing touch / But I'm not losing you / There's a whole lot of heart in me / I feel it under my skin" ("Whole Lot Of Heart").

On It Doesn't Have To Make Sense, Ingrid Michaelson sounds like she is chasing a single more than making an album that is intended to hold together as a solid musical work. "Miss America," for example, sounds very much like Michaelson trying to write a jingle for an alternate beauty company ad. Michaelson broke out when The Gap used "The Way I Am" and "Miss America" has so many musical moments that could be reduced for twenty second clips for an ad campaign for beauty products catering to non-Hollywood ideals of beauty, though my wife says it's a great anthem for getting ready for girl's night out!

In a similar way, "Drink You Gone" sounds like exactly the type of song one might use near the end of a romantic comedy. The song is the exact sound and lyrics some director will eventually use for the montage scene in a romance film where the protagonist realizes that they would rather be in the relationship they have abandoned than be alone. Sigh.

It Doesn't Have To Make Sense is plagued by odd transitions and an unfortunate track order. After the sad and somber "Drink You Gone," which is not a bad song musing about the sadness of a failed relationship, It Doesn't Have To Make Sense abruptly goes hard pop with "Hell No!" The celebration of tossing a bad relationship is a weird choice to follow a song that laments a lost relationship. As well, there is something infantile about the way "Still The One" - which is a very traditional pop song that sounds fun and wonderful - precedes "Celebrate," which is explicitly a throwback song intended to harken back to pop songs of the 1990s.

What helps sell It Doesn't Have To Make Sense are the vocals of Ingrid Michealson. Michaelson has a beautiful voice and when she goes into the soprano range on "Another Life," she does so with a lilting quality that is distinctive and wonderful. Michaelson is a wonderful singer and while some of the tracks have a more anthemic sound that is produced to sublimate her voice, most of her vocals are are fresh and clear.

But even Michaelson's voice is not enough to truly land the short, simplistic writing of songs that might have worked better on three different concept albums. It Doesn't Have To Make Sense is more average than exceptional.

The superlative track is "I Remember Her," the low point is "Celebrate."

For other works by Ingrid Michaelson, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Girls And Boys
Human Again


For other album and singles reviews, please check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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