There is no denying that the girl's got talent. The songbird's voice is pure and true. However I am not sure whether one can say the same for the album as a whole.
Fifteen-year-old Jasmine Van den Bogaerde became a singing sensation after releasing her version of Bon Iver's Skinny Love in January 2011. Her debut album, Birdy is essentially a cover album of indie tracks by the likes of the XX's, Francis & the Lights, Fleet Foxes and the National.
When I first listened to it I couldn't help but think of a cover album as a cop-out – particularly when you haven't released any original material prior to that. It's also surprising, considering the fact that she started playing the piano when she was four and wrote her first song when she was only eight years old. However, at only fifteen, Birdy has plenty of time to unleash her original material on to the world. In fact, releasing the single, Skinny Love might be the smartest career choice she could have made.
Releasing such a popular song on YouTube guarantees an audience – and when you hear this girl's voice you realise very quickly it is not another disillusioned teenager singing in to her hairbrush. There are over 19 million hits to vouch for that. And let's admit it - we internet users are suckers for watching the youth imitating adult themes – particularly if you do it as skilfully as Birdy has. If she had released an album consisting of entirely original material at only fifteen years old, it might have been difficult to take it seriously. This way, she has created much hype and controversy about whether she has anything original to offer… And that is ingenious advertising for a future album.
Her song selection shows individual taste and aligns her with innovative and edgy musicians, even though the production and distribution of her first album is far from indie style. While the vocals and piano carry the weight of the album, there are some fairly dramatic string arrangements as well as some swelling drum tracks like on Terrible Love. The producers have certainly not held back on the reverb! The tracks which are the most effective are those which are not over-produced or over sung such as Skinny Love and the opening track 1901.
It is important for an album to have a coherent style and unique sound but there also needs to be variation for listeners. It feels as if the team behind Birdy have used the same formula for almost all of the tracks – and that formula becomes sickly sweet after too much listening. The ease and honesty of her young voice starts to become laboured and sentimental. Fire and Rain by James Taylor, a folk story beautiful and effective in its simplicity, becomes over-dramatised and false. This is perhaps also due to the fact that she is a fifteen-year-old performing songs written mainly by men much older than herself.
Although the album may not be groundbreaking in innovation and is at times overly emotional, it is certainly an incredible introduction to a promising future for this young musician. The only original number on the album, Without a Word (although also possibly trying a little too hard to tug on our heartstrings) shows both a musical and emotional maturity one might not expect to hear from a fifteen-year-old.
I must admit that I am curious to see whether or not this little Birdy will soar.
Listen to Skinny Love below: