Birdy entered my radar with Just A Game from the first Hunger Games soundtrack in 2012, but it wasn’t until her cover of Bon Iver‘s Skinny Love reached my ears earlier this year that she really caught my attention.
That song originally appears on her debut album released three years ago, where it was also her first single in the UK (reaching #17). It was given similar treatment for her North American introduction, albeit strange considering it’s a three year old piano-ballad cover from an album loaded with more suitable-for-radio tracks.
But if any other song on the album were used as Birdy’s first introduction to America, it’s unlikely I’d have given her a second glance, as she would have blended with everything else.
And maybe that’s why a chance was taken with Skinny Love, one of two recycled covers originally from her first album that bookend the North American version of Fire Within – the other being People Help The People, originally by Cherry Ghost.
Both show her versatility beyond the songs that make up the album, of which all the song she co-wrote. For those 11 tracks, a selection of co-writers are on board to help guide her first foray into the world of pop music, including Ryan Tedder, Sia, Ben Lovett from Mumford & Sons, and Dan Wilson, among others.
The downside is that with so many collaborators, it’s hard to pinpoint what Birdy is all about as an artist. Fire Within is choppy and inconsistent as an album where some of her songs sound like extensions of the collaborators she’s working with, doing little to give her an identity.
The Ryan Tedder produced tracks for example, sound like OneRepublic songs with a female vocalist. It isn’t until All You Never Say, with Dan Wilson as co-writer and co-producer – the man who helped Adele craft Someone Like You – that a much-needed change of pace gives the record a new direction.
She has the pipes to stand apart from her peers, sometimes sounding alarmingly close to Florence Welsh, and her contemplative songwriting gives her a style of her own, but they are drowned by the rotation of producers and co-writers.
Because of Birdy’s age – 17 when Fire Within was released – she’s likely to receive comparisons to another beyond-her-years artist Lorde. However, Birdy’s lyrics aren’t as try-hard as Lorde’s songwriting. She writes about teenage stuff like a teenager might but provides perspectives and thoughts that are beyond her years. Birdy doesn’t have a chip on her shoulder while trying to prove how chill she is about the world.
Despite the inconsistencies, Birdy has tons of potential. Her recordings for The Fault In Our Stars will probably do more for her than this album will, which is a shame because there are some solid songs on here (check out the adorable Maybe, the highlight Standing In The Way Of The Light, and All You Never Say), but as a whole, I’m left unsure about her intentions due to something that was likely out of her control. Her options are many but she needs to settle and find some ground before she can fly.
1. Skinny Love
3. Heart Of Gold
4. Light Me Up
5. Words As Weapons
6. All You Never Say
7. Strange Birds
9. No Angel
10. All About You
11. Standing In The Way Of The Light
13. People Help The People