Ingrid Michaelson’s fifth studio album “Human Again” was released January 24th and quickly rose to the top of the iTunes bestseller chart. Fans of Michaelson’s precious, gentle sound might be a bit taken aback by the new album. The tracks make a somewhat futile attempt to be deeper, more moving, and more emphatic, both in lyrics and sound.
While there is certainly a transition, Michaelson does not stray far enough from her signature sound to alienate any of her fans. She seems as though she had some form of a harsh reality check or sobering life experience that has caused her to write slightly more angst-ridden songs. While certainly a step deeper than her hit song “You and I,” the lyrics are still far from profound. In the second track, “This is War,” Michaelson sings “I won’t surrender/I will fight better/You lock me out and knock me down,” seemingly reminiscent of something a Disney star would sing.
Unfortunately, a large portion of the album carries this tone of high school angst. In one of the album’s better tracks, “I’m Through,” Michaelson manages to utilize just about every cliche in the book. She croons, “I’m going out again tonight/the first time in the longest time/he holds the door and holds my hand/but doesn’t feel like you…. It’s all because of you I’m through.” To add insult to injury, she adds “But I would rather feel the sting/than never to have felt a thing.” Unfortunately, these lyrics capture the essence of the album. Michaelson continues her heavy use of metaphors, but they remain unsophisticated. At times, they even resemble bad nursery rhymes.
Michaelson is defensive of the new direction she took with the album. She told Oh No They Didn’t Magazine, “I played a few of the songs for my father that we’ve been working on, and he asked me where are all the peppy songs were. Evidently, there aren’t any peppy songs on this record. But that’s OK, I’m not a little kid anymore. I love singing my little ukulele songs. But I feel like it’s time to stand up and really sing. [This record] is fiercer and not as childlike. Not to diss my old work, but I feel like I’ve done the whole barefoot singer-songwriter thing.”
The high note of the album is most certainly the orchestration. “I’m Through” features some beautiful music phrases at the beginning. I found myself wishing that Michaelson wouldn’t have started singing the reaching-too-far lyrics. When Michaelson returns to her signature lighthearted style in the track “How We Love,” the result is immensely better. The song doesn’t try to be anything more than it is, and it works.
While Ingrid Michaelson has attempted to venture away from her toothache-inducing sweet songs, the result is unfortunately sub-par. Michaelson should find the happy medium between the two extremes, and try to consistently incorporate the whimsical self-awareness that her fans have come to love.