Sabrina Carpenter Radiates in Singular:Act I

By Rhiannon Levengood

Sabrina Carpenter continues her musical evolution with the debut of her third, full length record Singular Act I. This album features 8 brand new songs that refine Carpenter’s ever-changing sound. Through Act I, she takes you on a journey to Paris and Le Louvre, proclaims her desire for intense love and affection, and shows off her confidence with two show-stopping numbers. Sabrina takes risks she’s never taken before, tells about parts of her life she’s never explicitly told before, and ultimately breaks out of her Disney Channel shell. Singular Act I as a whole is a coming-of-age album and should be treated just like a precious diamond.

Act I opens with the very first single off this record, “Almost Love.” This anthem introduces an edgier side of Sabrina’s craft. While her sound is still relatively pop, there’s a taste of R&B shining through in this song, and in the rest of the album. “Almost Love” tells a story of restlessness and excitement, and perfectly sets the vibe for the rest of Act I. There are elements of desire and uncertainty strewn across the lyrics as Carpenter decides once and for all she’s done waiting around for love to slowly blossom. Falling in love makes her nervous and antsy, the exact same way she feels before hitting the stage to start a show, but that sort of exhilaration is what she craves most in a relationship.

However, sometimes Sabrina isn’t always aware of the love she already has. “Paris” describes her inability to see the love that is waiting for her at home in Los Angeles. When trying to find love in the romantic city of Paris, France, she realizes her mistake and through the native language, she professes her love for this boy back in SoCal:

“Je ne voulais pas trouver l’amour (I did not want to find love)
Mais Paris a quelque chose (But Paris has something)
Qui donne envie d’aimer, d’aimer passionément (That makes you want to love, to love passionately)
Mon coeur est à toi pour toujours (My heart is yours forever)
You will always have my heart”

“Hold Tight” is Carpenter’s first song to feature the vocals of another artist, and flawlessly showcases the maturity of both herself and her music. She pleads for an intimate love that’s a little more private, a little more stay-at-home, and subtly expresses her sensuality. UHMEER’s appearance takes “Hold Tight” to another level and could successfully bring it to mainstream radio. Instrumentally, this track bounces back and forth between having a rhythmic, slow grind, to having a quicker, staccato beat. In fact, Carpenter’s friend Joey King perfectly described the feel of this song.

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Sabrina breaks away from the sappy romance stories to bring us a love ballad for herself. “Sue Me” is an empowering song about moving on from a previous relationship without losing sight of oneself. It teaches self-love in the sassiest way possible, and makes for a great jam to sing to in the car. The track is heavy with synthesized production and has common themes with Demi Lovato’s own vengeful song “Sorry Not Sorry,” but still stands alone as Sabrina’s unique, contemporary R&B sound.

Singular Act I slows down and mellows out with “prfct,” another song revealing Carpenter’s need to feel something more than just love. She wants lust and heartbreak, anger and pain. She doesn’t want a perfect relationship; she wants a prfctly imperfect one that sits on the edge of being scandalous and distressful. The most compelling part of this track is Carpenter’s use of vocal layering, which gives the song a fractured vibe. There are pieces of lyrics echoing around the chorus and bridge, like fragments of thoughts trying to fit into a cohesive sentence. The production of the song presents itself as imperfect and scattered, like the kind of love and intimacy that Sabrina yearns for.

The third single release from Singular is “Bad Time,” another saucy and savage song where Sabrina seeks her revenge on a boy who constantly rejected her in the past. She promises that if he ever contacts her again, she’ll be using his favorite line “it’s a bad time for a good time” against him. The song itself is poppy and fun to sing along to, bringing the album back up to a dancy tempo before jumping into “Mona Lisa.”

Much like the actual painting, Sabrina has her eyes set on someone who isn’t making the first move. She’s waiting patiently for him to introduce himself, tell her she’s beautiful, give her attention, and then take her home, but she senses some hesitation from him. Again, this song exhibits very rhythmic, staccato-like vocals that give it the R&B feel. “Mona Lisa” contrasts with “Paris” by flipping the plot and putting the ball in the other person’s court. The songs have common themes and even take place in the same city, but Sabrina plays opposite roles in each song. “Mona Lisa” could almost be a prequel to “Paris” because at first she’s trying to find love in Paris, and then she realizes she has love in Los Angeles.

And finally, Act I comes to an extravagant and dramatic close with “Diamonds Are Forever.” With this track, Sabrina Carpenter confidently declares that she doesn’t just give away her love. She compares herself and her love to a diamond, meaning that she’s precious and timeless, and no amount of money could buy her time and affection. The vibe of this song is similar to Rihanna because of how huge the vocals are. The sound is big, well-rounded, and a perfect finale piece to Singular Act I.

Lucky for us, Singular Act II will be released in early 2019, so this little intermission won’t be too long for the Carpenters.

Catch Sabrina as a part of iHeartRadio’s annual Jingle Ball tour for the holidays. For a full list of tour dates, please visit www.sabrinacarpenter.com.

Emily Kinney Enchants Philadelphia

By Rhiannon Levengood

Photo by Zack Knudsen

Emily Kinney never fails to put absolutely every fiber of her being into each and every show, and a small venue in Philadelphia doesn’t change her energy one bit. On Friday, October 12, Kinney brought her A-game back to the Milkboy with a packed set list, featuring the entirety of her newest album Oh Jonathan and a few throwbacks for her older fans. Along with her own songs, she performed a cover of Waxahatchee’s “Be Good” and sang a duet called “Figure You Out” with her sweetheart, Paul McDonald.
Kinney’s Same Mistakes tour kicks off with a small acoustic set performed by the hilariously charming Paul McDonald, who is almost a full band all on his own. Despite standing alone with a guitar and his powerful vocal range, McDonald filled the upstairs room with relatable and transparent lyrics, a strong stage presence, and a few mighty stomps here and there to build his sound. His charisma not only captivates his audience, but keeps them focused on him as he gets them pumped for Emily. McDonald ended his set with an unplugged version of his song “Come On” before snagging a picture with the vivacious crowd.

The Same Mistakes tour feels like a story from beginning to end. Emily takes you on an emotional journey through love, heartache, and revenge. Like a mermaid, Kinney reels you into her world and captures your heart as she sweetly sings to you her stories of faraway lands such as Los Angeles and New York City, and the boys she fell in love with there. She paints a masterpiece of skyscrapers and sunsets, and hot nights at the cusp of summer and autumn. You laugh with her as she reminisces about the has-beens she used to love and the dumb girl named “Julie”, who’s with the man that she wants. And when Emily serenades you with her final song, you almost forget that you’re on the outskirts of Chinatown in the heart of Philadelphia.
If you haven’t seen Emily Kinney on tour yet, try to catch at one of her last shows this fall! It’s a show you definitely do not want to miss.
Thursday, October 18 – Chicago, IL, SPACE
Sunday, October 28 – Atlanta, Georgia, Eddie’s Attic
Tuesday, November 13 – Los Angeles, California, Teragram
Thursday, November 15 – Sacramento, California, Goldfield
Friday, November 16 – San Francisco, California, Café Du Nord
Sunday, November 18 – Carmel-by-the-sea, California, Folktale Winery and Vineyards

To All The Boys Emily Kinney Has Loved Before

By Rhiannon Levengood

With her third studio album Oh Jonathan, Emily Kinney introduces her fans to a brand new sound that combines her iconic indie, pop vibe with a fresh synthesized feel. The tracklist includes fan favorites like “Same Mistakes”, “Jonathan”, and “Popsicles”, three songs that any diehard Emily Kinney ‘Lover’ would know, but still delivers a record completely unheard by anyone before. Oh Jonathan exhibits Kinney’s personal and musical growth, confidence, and ongoing desire to be loved in a way that’s short, sweet, and sometimes even explicit.

Oh Jonathan begins like a regular Emily Kinney show would with her song “Same Mistakes”. It opens her journey of finding true love by telling us that the rest of these songs will be about navigating her options and making both terrible and great decisions along the way. She expertly sets the tone for the rest of her record by slowly introducing her new electronic sound with an older song, perfectly blending two vibes into one. Kinney’s gentle voice tells a love story about returning to a relationship that is most likely toxic for her. She knows that she has a man who is ideal for anyone else, but her heart really belongs to this other guy, even if it hurts to love him sometimes, which is a lesson she’ll learn time and again.

“Same Mistakes” also portrays Emily’s confidence in herself and what she wants, especially when it comes to her romantic and sexual relationships. The first track effortlessly transitions into “Mortal”, another song that uses a synthesized beat to drive it forward. It recounts a story of a blossoming love, not yet complicated, but also not going anywhere either. The two share a love that’s exciting in the beginning stages, but as it progresses, it sort of dies out. Does he love her the way she loves him? Does he feel that connection like she does? It’s that uncertainty that keeps Kinney around.

Emily’s album continues with another one of her older (finally recorded!), but one of her best written songs. “Jonathan” has a very simple guitar riff that helps you focus on the creative, metaphorical lyrics. Emily and “Jonathan” are complete opposites, but they complement each other so well that Emily feels really drawn to him. She’s a ray of sunshine, and he’s a cloudy day, but his mysterious demeanor makes him interesting and addictive. The only problem is that the love Kinney feels is unrequited, so the song ends with her hoping for “Jonathan” to make his way back to her in the future.

Oh Jonathan takes a poppier turn with “Soda Glass”, a song about a fragile kind of love. It’s another story that burns out too quickly and leaves Kinney hopelessly heartbroken. While the affair is over, she is still kind of hopeful for a restart. “Soda Glass” is a little reminiscent of Emily’s song “In” from her debut EP Blue Toothbrush with similar lyrics. For example, in “In” Kinney describes her New York City apartment:

“You helped paint the walls, but got dirt on the carpet/But I didn’t mind cause you’re all that I wanted/Ignored broken glass/Forgave each small sin/Each time you knocked, I let you in,” which directly relates to: “I got your notes on napkins/And my blood on your walls/Our soda glass love could only take so many falls.”

The same theme of feeling used and thrown away continues into “Popsicles”. This song was initially released on Kinney’s second EP Back On Love, and originally had an acoustic guitar and piano instrumental track. The percussion parts were subtle and sounded like classroom instruments, giving the song an innocent vibe. For its rerelease on Oh Jonathan, “Popsicles” was given a new production, making it more upbeat and electronic to fit in with the rest of the record. The slight change makes me believe that Emily’s feelings regarding this song have changed over the past two years. Maybe she’s not as angry or hurt as she was when she first released it, and now she’s able to reimagine its sound and put more into its production.

“Drunk and Lost” is an almost love ballad that Emily sings for a guy she meets at a party. She tries enticing him to take her home, and if it all feels wrong, they can call any advances an accident in the morning. Again, her confidence in her sexuality and her desire to feel some love is evident here.

The steady buoyant vibe of the record slows down for “Loser”, a song Emily uses to smear an ex-lover. She incessantly asks him how it feels to not be good enough for her by comparing him to her current lover, and to his own past. The lyrics are transparent and vulgar, but flawlessly execute her emotions over their relationship’s demise. She builds up her self-worth by tearing him down in a way that’s almost empowering. Another difference between this song and the rest of the album is the use of a saxophone part during the bridge, that may or may not be a message in itself to the ‘loser.’

Oh Jonathan comes to a close far too soon with Emily Kinney’s two singles “Mermaid Song” and “Boy Band Hero.” Both of these tracks have a dreamy feel to them instrumentally and carry the ever-present theme of finding love and eventually moving on from it. “Mermaid Song” in particular showcases Kinney’s independence in a relationship that isn’t really going the way she wants it to, while “Boy Band Hero” reminds us that she’s always dreaming of falling in love.

To all the boys that Emily Kinney has loved before, thank you. Your imperfections and inabilities to love as deeply as Emily has given us yet another beautifully written record.

You can check Emily out on her Same Mistakes Tour across the US this fall, and give her a follow on Twitter and Instagram.