It’s impossible to deny that Jasmine Bogaerde, also known as Birdy, showed herself to have a massive amount of potential with her self-titled album in 2011; the then-14 year old had a surprisingly powerful voice for her age and her stripped down cover versions of other popular songs showed a more mature sound than one would expect. She switched gears on her second album, Fire Within, which took on more of a folksy pop sound, showing some impressive versatility. It’s all the more upsetting that her latest album, Beautiful Lies, has remained so static.
There’s an ample collection of piano-led folk tracks here, taking on a subdued atmosphere that extends throughout most of the album, pairing subtle verses with powerful choruses that burst forth thanks to Bogaerde’s vocals, rather than the power of the arrangement. Silhouette stands as the best example, pairing a simple piano arrangement with a quietly rumbling percussive arrangement that allows her voice to rise above the rest, only really battling against the ambient electronics that give the song a glowing effect. Lifted takes on some pop elements in its chorus, but only really pushes it higher with the vocal performance, which slowly gains in power as the song goes on, peaking near the end.
In terms of style, however, the tracks throughout the album mostly remain in the same territory. Only a few moments break this mould, and it’s debatable whether they work for or against the tone of the album: Keeping Your Head Up is the album’s only true upbeat moment, with its frantic beat giving a new edge to the strings and piano that recur throughout the album, and allowing Bogaerde to belt to the best of her ability. Hear You Calling feels more in line with the album’s overall tone, but mixes in sampled vocal melodies and an upbeat, optimistic chorus to give it more appeal. While other songs like Wild Horses often give the album more mainstream appeal while remaining in her folk style, these two songs stick squarely out from the rest of the pack, which is what makes them such a mixed bag; while they’re the album’s most compelling tracks, they also refuse to mesh with the album at large.
Given that these renegade tracks are few and far between across the album, the question is whether the album needed more of these to improve its overall impression or whether it would be better to be rid of them entirely. Had the album had more of this pop energy injected into it, it would have provided a refreshing update to Bogaerde’s sound while still remaining faithful to her sound. As it is, there’s still an overall flow to the album that works surprisingly well, but the overall consistency of the album sans these two left-field pop tracks does make one wonder whether more variety would make it a more enjoyable piece of work, rather than a mildly interesting one.