a long time coming- reviewing Cassadee Pope’s album

Just as I’ve been counting down my favorite movies on my other blog to show people how they define me as a person… music and the artists I listen to do the same thing.
I’ve thought about how I identify with some celebrities and others impact me in such a substantial way that I want to bring my interpretation of them to life in my writing, so I’ll remember how they inspired me, wow’d me and even changed me.

My music collection says a lot of things about me. It starts with prepackaged pop, hits on the radio I couldn’t get out of my head. Then it gave way to solo artists that were up and coming on Disney and were among people my best friends listened to. After that, singer-songwriter types, then some 80’s artists’ greatest hits. Of course, there’s also a mix of American Idol winners and alums, the only X-Factor winner with an album (that I desperately need to determine how much I really get out of it) and two albums (one full-length/extended edition and one compilation) from Cassadee Pope.

It’s funny. Cass had one of my favorite blind auditions of the third season of “The Voice.” I had a list of maybe a dozen people I liked and a bunch of them stayed around until toward the end. But when it came time for the battle rounds, I had no memory of her audition. I just remember her being among the names I wrote down.
She came off as an Avril Lavigne type, pop-rocker who happened to do a lot of songs I personally loved singing along to. Happy Ending, Are You Happy Now?, Behind These Hazel Eyes (which will always be, to me, the song playing on the radio when I got to drive home after finally getting my license).
Like it was with everyone else, “Over You” was the stand-out moment. It was a great song, but also, she gave the kind of vocal performance I find in some of my favorite songs. The lyrics spring to life, I got emotional as if I was experiencing the same situation for myself… it was believable.

I had absolutely no idea she was the front-runner and pegged to be the winner of the entire thing. I was just hoping she did enough each week that she’d get voted through. But sure enough, she won. Sadly, my joy was eclipsed by all the negativity I read earlier on, people on Lyndsay Parker’s page saying how she didn’t deserve to win because she was the least original person left.
I’ve yet to buy a single Avril Lavigne album, so this was my way of making due. (I’m still waiting for a greatest hits album… anytime now, Avril!)

Then I heard she was signing up to do a country album. Yeah, I was a little ticked. I thought Blake had forced her to go country, something that seemed clear with the later song choices he gave her.
But I absolutely believe her when she says that she started out loving country music and did pop/rock with her band Hey Monday because that was popular at the time…
Enjoyed every moment of her Country Music TV series “Frame by Frame,” which was the touring and promotion of this upcoming album. It really gave you a look into her life on the road and we love to know her better as a person. And that person is pretty awesome.

I guess the only negative I drew from it was that I got sick of her playing “Good Times” every episode. I thought the opening lyric is uber-cheesy, unbelievable and just lazy songwriting. But when I got the album, that disdain kinda disappeared because it’s a great adrenaline rush. My only nit-pick now is that sometimes I feel like it’s worn-out its welcome. Oddly enough, I don’t get that same vibe from the acoustic version later in the album and it’s one second longer 😛

In order to avoid the pitfalls I’ve had with albums recently (Colton Dixon’s, Born This Way, Red), I uploaded “Frame by Frame” to my iPod so I could listen to it at my leisure… instead of feeling pressured to listen to it in its entirety.
So yeah, I technically have never listened to it from start to finish in one sitting, but that’s worked really well for me so far.

[Now onto discussing the actual album…]

Some songs I can personally see myself in, others contain emotions I wanna explore when my mood calls for it… but as far as I can tell, almost all of them are great.

“Champagne” and “This Car” were two songs I was also borderline about. “Good Times” is such an action-packed, adrenaline of good vibes that “Champagne” felt it fell a little short by comparison. But I can relate to the high of being in love and the imagery that came with it in that track. It just took a little while for me to buy into it.
“This Car,” I felt was a little forced… adding tons of car euphemisms to bring the lyrics to life, just more cheesy songwriting. But in time, I came to enjoy it because the chorus has that “hook” a lot of singles on the radio have. The way the lyrics are developed just make it so much fun to listen to (and sing along to, when I do get around to singing along to these tracks, lol). I’d say it reminds me a little of “Starlight” from Taylor Swift’s Red album except that she was the only songwriter to its credit.

The first thing I did, as I often do with songwriter albums, was look through the album credits to see who wrote the music. With winners of the reality competitions, I’m always curious to see which songs they personally penned so I can rate their songwriting as well as their singing.
Cass has credit for 7 of these.

There were some familiar “faces”… including my old friend, Max Martin, who helped make “Easier to Lie” one of my favorites. He and his co-writers put together a great story, easily relatable to anyone who cheated on their boyfriend in a moment of weakness and struggle with the guilt of keeping it secret. Again, another melodic song I can’t resist singing along to. It makes me sad, but I absolutely get it… even if I’d never been in that kind of situation.
Hilary Lindsey, who I applauded for some of my favorite songs on Carrie Underwood’s “Blown Away” album. She did “Champagne” and also another of my personal favorites, “One Song Away”. I actually listened to it for the first time while I was laying in bed after turning the lights out for the night. It paints the scene of her listening to the radio, thinking about calling up the boyfriend she desperately misses… something I can relate to through one of my recent short stories. Well, recent as in I wrote it in 2011/12.

If I can help it, I try to keep redundancy in my music to a minimum. Can’t have too many artists that come from the same genre that write the song kind of music.
So what do I get out of Cassadee that Taylor Swift doesn’t already satisfy?

I’m not entirely sure yet, but the songwriting does differ just enough.
I guess one way of explaining it is that not every song is about a relationship or a break-up. The subjects vary from the heat of the relationship, to picking up the pieces afterwards… one thing that stands out is that there’s a tiny bit more angst.

like “Prove you Wrong”… a song I might use for the story I’m writing… is like something Miranda Lambert would do… about getting away from a controlling relationship and proving you can stand on your own without him.
Of the songs Cass co-wrote, it’s tied with “You Hear a Song” for my #1 spot.
Interestingly, they’re on opposite sides of the spectrum. “You Hear a Song” is something I feel is relevant to me right now… I have friends that say those kinds of things to me, saying how they see the brighter side of me that I can’t. She had with “I see a mess in the mirror. You see the girl of your dreams.”

It was one of two songs she co-wrote with Nathan Chapman, who helped get Taylor Swift to where she is now. The other one was “11,” which is the only one I know the story behind. Supposedly, Cassadee’s dad walked out on her family when she was 11. “The Voice” in part helped her repair her relationship with him, but this song brings a very personal moment in her life. I can’t relate to it personally because I’m in the minority with my parents still being together. The songwriting is a little clunky in places, but overall, it’s pretty solid. Either way, this tells the story of an event that happened and you can’t really criticize the truth.

“Everybody Sings” is one of those stereotypical country songs that talk about the community in southern communities. It doesn’t feel as boxed in as Carrie Underwood’s “Thank God for Hometowns”… I mean, this could take place at any bar in any city with a vast cast of characters and people.
When I was just getting through the album, my overall vibe was that there were a lot of negatives. Too many sad songs with not enough joy in between. This and “Good Times” were the only positive songs I found it in. Now, that is clearly not the case.

If anything, it’s a toss-up between the two.
8 of the 13 tracks are more on the positive, with two sad songs and two angry anthems.

That’s something I don’t get quite enough in my music… hearing my favorite girls in music go off the handle about men who’ve done them wrong. Carrie Underwood fills that void a little bit, but she’s not in that exclusive club of artists I relate to on a personal level.
Occasionally, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift give me that something.

Nothing as hard-core as “Wasting all these tears” and “I wish I could break your heart”, though.
“Wasting all these tears” had to grow on me, but after I became familiar with it on the TV series, I was in for the long haul. It reminded me of New Moon after Edward leaves Bella, that degree of angst, except the end result would be Bella getting together with Jacob without Edward ever coming back. (as a member of Team Edward, the notion of him never coming back is devastating, but having an anthem like this to back it up would make the transition with Jacob a breeze).
And I guess “I wish I could break your heart” is appealing a lot to me right now because I’d been in moods lately 😛 it’s cool having something like this in my back pocket on the occasion when I need one of my artists to channel my angst about a situation. Doesn’t happen often, but for just in case… gotta have my bases covered.

Great album with a lot of variety… hope there’ll be more to follow for Cassadee Pope.

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