It’s high time we make some room in our brains for the emotional headspace Birdy digs into.
There’s a chance you haven’t heard of Birdy. That’s fair. Considering the airwaves have been sizzling with tremendous female singer-songwriters for a good long while now, it’s tough for anyone to commit to a new voice. The Adeles and the Florences of the world are already fairly constantly front and center. How much emotionally exhausting, tear-inducing and soulfully empowering music is any one person expected to digest? No, you may not have heard of Birdy for a number of reasons, but Beautiful Lies is the album that will make you pay attention.
Jasmine Lucilla Elizabeth Jennifer van den Bogaerde (thankfully we can refer to her by her stage name) was born in the UK. She gained notoriety for winning “Open Mic UK” in 2008—when she was twelve. Since then she’s released three albums and has toured the majority of the planet. What’s most impressive is that her vocal timbre, melodic maturity and lyrical insight (for the most part) make it hard to believe the 14 tracks on Beautiful Lies were performed by a 19 year-old. This is an old-soul record by a young person who may or may not have had the life experience to sing of such loves and losses. But my goodness, when the first notes of “Growing Pains” grips you tight you’ll be hard-pressed to believe Birdy isn’t singing about you.
“Growing Pains” is an exotic and eclectic song that walks a tight-rope between being a theme for a James Bond film and a radio-ready heartstring-tugger. It’s a tremendous opener to a record; slightly driving in its pacing, but intensely dramatic. The drama in Birdy’s voice alone will rope you in, but it’s the pain, joy and drama that’ll keep you moving on along through the track list.
The opening notes from the piano on “Shadow” are staggering in their tender dreamlike progression. Then of course Birdy enters to sing directly to your soul about “The music of your heart.” While at first this track seems like it could be the album’s first ballad, the chorus provides a bass drum heartbeat underneath Birdy’s velvet vocal that gives it a soundtrack vibe. It’s the type of song that could be played over a montage of a couples’ distance, emotional or otherwise, from one another in a film. Heartbreaking, beautiful, powerful—a thesaurus-full of wonderful words that make nearly the same point.
“Keeping Your Head Up,” the album’s first single, is exactly what you would expect. It’s lyrically uplifting to say the very least: “Hold tight you’re slowly coming back to life/ I’ll be keeping your head up/ I’ll be keeping your head up, darling/ Let go of all your haunted dreams tonight/ I’ll be keeping your head up/ I’ll be keeping your head up, darling.” Its beat is a programmed drum loop reminiscent of David Gray’s “Babylon.” When the beat alone is infectious enough to finger-tap it out on your desk at work long after a song’s finished, no one could argue with a tried and true method. Birdy’s voice can touch on just about every point on the register—and in that regard she uses her voice like Neil Peart uses a drum kit. Her talent seemingly has no limits.
“Deep End,” “Lost It All” and “Silhouette” reach too far into the dramatics and scrape into melodrama territory. The songs are still very beautiful, still very powerful, still easily listenable. But Birdy’s age seems to betray her a bit on these tracks simply because they are dripping with manufactured drama as opposed to pure emotion. Could that stem from the perception that a person so young may not be able to articulate these emotions properly? Sure. It’s undebatable, however, that these tracks still play those heartstrings just the same way the more genuine tunes do if you allow your brain some time off.
Beautiful Lies’ only true downfall is its length. 14 tracks that range between three and a half and four minutes each is just a bit too much. “Save Yourself,” “Unbroken” and “Beautiful Lies” get buried at the tail end of the album simply because humans can only take so much emotion before they overload. By the time you reach these tracks—which are every bit as strong as those that come before them—they almost lose their power because the listening experience thus far has been stuffed with emotional intensity. It’s best to take a break and come back to these tracks to be honest. That’s really the only way to feel them properly.
While Beautiful Lies isn’t a perfect album, it’s one that proves it’s high time we make some room in our brains for the emotional headspace Birdy digs into. One more outrageously gorgeous voice on our radar won’t hurt us. It may make us tear up a bit, but who doesn’t like a single tear down the cheek during a drive on a sunny day? At times it may make you question whether Birdy is just playacting these emotions or not, but even if you don’t buy every moment, this is only the beginning of what one hopes is a long career. If you haven’t yet heard of Birdy, Beautiful Lies will make you want to get off your butt and learn something already.