If you don’t know who Mary Lambert is, then start educating yourself. She was just a girl from Seattle, who was very much into slam poetry, songwriting and waitressing on the side. Fast forward to 2013 and Lambert is writing and featuring in Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ Same Love, then signing contracts with Capitol Records. This month, Lambert’s debut album has finally arrived – and it’s already generating buzz in the music industry. Heart-felt, honest and raw, Heart On My Sleeve has us convinced that Lambert is, perhaps, one of the greatest breakout artists of 2014.
What’s different about Lambert is that she brutally honest. Call her fat, bipolar, lesbian or overly sensitive – she doesn’t really care. That’s the exact theme of the album’s opener, Secrets. Here, we’re introduced to a hilariously candid version of Lambert, flaws and all. In a singsongy tune, she pokes fun at herself and doesn’t give a damn about it. Her vocals aren’t jaw-dropping but that’s not the point – rather, the catchy hooks and flamboyant horns serve as a kooky, no-holds-barred icebreaker. That’s about it for the upbeat side of things, though. Straightaway we launch into So Far Away, a soaring pop ballad complete with building piano chords and electronic beats. Though frankly, the beats are a little distracting from the piano and guitar. Rib Cage is better – a haunting ballad, this time with a more subdued beat so Lambert’s vocals are for show. Angel Haze and K.Flay put an R&B twist to this track, and the rap verse is essentially an extension of Lambert’s musings. Although it’s a little drawn out towards the end, it’s still a reflective and thoughtful track that shows a much deeper side to the singer.
We did mention that Lambert is into performance poetry – and to our delight, Dear One is an exclusive preview to Lambert’s creative genius. This short yet beautiful piece captures the feeling of overwhelming love in just over a minute; far more effective than any corny pop song will be. And the soft lullaby When You Sleep is so tender, it’s almost too heartbreaking to listen to. It’s a love song that takes it to the next level – it may not sound like anything flashy, but the lyrics are what hold the depth of this track. Any extra production would simply take away the magic.
But Lambert really goes above and beyond with her rendition of Rick Springfield’s 80’s classic, Jessie’s Girl. The songstress doesn’t just sing the song, she performs it. Ranging between a whisper and convincing crescendos, Lambert’s voice breaks at just the right moments to convey the want and longing behind this track. Unrequited love has never sounded so devastating, and Lambert’s cover will you on your knees. Sum of Our Parts also deserves an honourable mention – it’s a song about rising out of the ashes, and growing into a stronger version of yourself. ‘We are more than our scars…more than the sum of our parts’, she croons, and her emotion will have you shivering in your seat. Lambert’s lyrics refer to a time in her past, and she pours so much strength into this song that it makes us feel empowered too. For a song that’s so inspiring, Lambert would fare better with a more epic production – perhaps more instruments, or an even bigger build up to an explosive chorus. Nevertheless, it still doesn’t fail to impress – especially during Lambert’s spoken word midway. Her urgency is captivating, and makes us consider the message behind this song: rise above the flames and be the person you want to be.
It’s a triumph of an album from Lambert, who proves she can hold her own in the pop industry. To be critical, there are a few too many ballads out of the 13-strong track list, but hey – her lyrics are so solid she can get away with it. If lyrics and bare melodies are your forte, then why not milk it? Mary Lambert does just that and she is just shimmering – each song is pouring with emotion, performance and raw honesty. It’s quite rare to come across something this real; and when we do, it’s an absolute pleasure.