Rae Morris - Someone Out There

by Nicole Gadras

As the vivid yellow cover art suggests, Rae Morris’s second album is a bold statement. Packed with bright, energetic electro-pop tracks, it marks a dramatic change in direction towards a slicker and more self-assured sound for the Blackpool-born singer-songwriter.

Her comeback single Reborn is a triumphant declaration of her transformation as an artist, as Morris aptly sings, “These are new beginnings”. With a catchy hook and staccato beats, it’s an example of the punchy, buoyant electro-pop that has replaced the piano-dominated ballads of 2015’s Unguarded. The third track, Atletico (The Only One), is another injection of fun, upbeat energy, and probably the best track on the album. Morris tells the story of admiring an attractive stranger on a night out, but ultimately being too shy to say anything, and the urge to sing along to the incredibly catchy chorus invites attempts to mirror the Kate Bush-eqsue vocal gymnastics that Morris masters effortlessly.

By far the best tracks on the album are the ones that showcase Morris’s extraordinary voice and vocal range, like Atletico, and the stripped-back opening track Push Me to My Limit, a reflection on the difficulties of relationships in modern life, which highlights her ethereal, almost haunting tone. A lot of the songs on the album appear inspired by the relationship that blossomed between Morris and her co-writer and producer Fryars during the making of the album. She isn’t afraid to tackle intimate and personal themes, like on Do It, another single released last year, and the gentle, down-tempo Lower the Tone, reflecting a sense of confident self-assurance.

However, there are definitely a few tracks towards the middle and end of the album which are less exciting. Physical Form is frankly bland and almost instantly forgettable, while Dip My Toe, which is about sleeping with someone for the first time, is the kind of song that becomes irritating very quickly, although it does deserve a lot of credit as a confident and unashamed expression of female desire. Unfortunately, the return to a piano-based ballad on title track Someone Out There is also disappointing. The message of the song is sweet, with its reminder that we are all loved, but it’s also overly sentimental and a bit cringey. The piano sounds almost dirge-like, and the song just isn’t on a par with the quality of the pop tracks that dominate the rest of the album.

Rose Garden is an example of Morris and Fryars taking things in a more experimental direction, but it’s a move that works really well. Supposedly a song about panic attacks, Morris sings about the struggle against body and mind as anxiety-inducing, off-beat drum patterns mirror an irregular heartbeat. Her sense of individuality and personality as an artist, which shines through across the album, comes to the fore again on the final track, Dancing with Character, where she expresses her admiration for a widower dancing alone. Overall, the real success of Someone Out There lies in this skilful combination of fun, catchy pop hooks and more experimental elements, which is not something many can pull off and leaves the listener with a striking impression of Morris’s individuality as an artist. Ultimately, more than the shiny new pop persona, it’s her unique voice which continues to stand out above everything else.