Skylar Grey has experienced the most drawn out rise to prominence in recent years. While she had a hand in writing the hook of recent hip-hop hits including Eminem‘s Love The Way You Lie, Diddy‘s Coming Home and Dr. Dre‘s I Need A Doctor – the last two of which she also sang the hook, her own recording career hasn’t had as much luck.
With executive producer and mentor Eminem in charge, Don’t Look Down is a predominately hip-hop/pop record filled with hooks and beats layered over the songs of a singer/songwriter.
While Don’t Look Down is Grey’s first album under this moniker, her recording career goes back almost a decade. Her full-length debut album was 2006’s Like Blood Like Honey, which was an indie pop album consisting of light piano and guitar pop songs. The album, released under her real first and middle name Holly Brook, would have fit comfortably in between Sarah McLachlan, Missy Higgins and Vanessa Carlton records.
McLachlan is among her influences as is Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Neil Young; plus more rock-oriented bands like Marilyn Manson, Radiohead and Garbage.
So it goes without saying that this record, with its layered production, feels disingenuous. Sometimes the production is overbearing on songs that sound like they’re forced into a mould of hip-hop when they are straight-up pop songs, even still, bordering on the singer/songwriter genre.
At times, the songs fit into the range of those like Michelle Branch (Wear Me Out), Avril Lavigne (Religion) or Fiona Apple (Pulse) while others feel forced (Weirdo and C’mon Let Me Ride).
It’s likely that this album is an extension of her newfound connections that came from collaborating with some of hip-hop’s top names. Skylar has been singing hooks on rap hits since her musical beginning (That’s her on the 2006 Fort Minor hit Where’d You Go – watch the video here) so it’s unlikely this album is a farce. Rather, it’s an opportunity to capitalize on her talents as a hit-making songwriter – and those are legitimate.
While Don’t Look Down doesn’t feel true to her, the songs are catchy and this album satisfies any curiosity one might have about adding hip-hop beats to any female singer/songwriter. The album is worth investing into for the songs but I would wait before investing in Skylar Grey the artist – just a little bit longer.
1. Back From The Dead [featuring Big Sean and Travis Barker]
2. Final Warning
3. Wear Me Out
5. C’mon Let Me Ride [featuring Eminem]
9. Glow In The Dark
10. Beautiful Nightmare
11. Shit, Man! [featuring Angel Haze]
12. Clear Blue Sky
13. Tower (Don’t Look Down)
14. White Suburban