My only previous experience with Sara Bareilles music was a brief, but intense, love affair with her album Kaleidoscope Heart at the age of 14. She would be my go-to artist to blare out when I needed something bouncy and light-hearted to listen to, and this is fully what I was expecting from her newest release What’s Inside: Songs From Waitress. The album is composed from songs she has written for the Broadway adaptation of the 2007 film Waitress, and has been described by Bareilles as “deliciously self-indulgent”. With its first showing due in 2016, Waitress is a project that marks Bareilles debut as a musical-theatre composer. Being a self-confessed musical lover (I probably shouldn’t admit it but the Grease and Hairspray soundtracks are two of the most played albums on my phone), I was excited to see how Bareilles style would translate into musical numbers.
The album opens with a perfectly cheesy track, titled What’s Inside. If someone didn’t know this album was written for a musical when they picked it up, they definitely would do 30 seconds into the first song. It’s a song that I’m sure would work well on stage and as a musical opening (which is obviously its intended use), but I found it a bit weird and awkward as I sat and listened to the repetitive opening harmonies of “sugar, butter, flour” on an album. The next track, Opening Up, brought relief from this awkwardness, and the enjoyably catchy lyrics and beat were much appreciated. Despite being a completely different type of album for her, it is clear from the offset that Bareilles hasn’t strayed much from her typical style – a bouncy keyboard with sweet and melodic vocals. This style works particularly well with Opening Up, as well as the fun Door Number Three – both tracks could almost have been taken straight from her old album Kaleidoscope Heart.
However, What’s Inside: Songs From Waitress lacks the excitement that comes from the clever sassiness associated with Bareilles’ music. Her ability to sing a cutting lyric whilst still sounding sweet and innocent just isn’t there on this album. By the time I am even a quarter of the way through, the songs are already beginning to sound repetitive. Even the song with Jason Mraz, Bad Idea, isn’t enough to prevent my boredom, and instead ends up being a complete let down. Bareilles overpowers him so much that at times you can’t even hear him singing, and the song itself is so fast-paced and rushed that it occasionally sounds like they are tripping over their words. Whilst I understand that this album was written for a musical (so cheesy, repetitive lyrics are to be expected), I still found it disappointing to hear two extremely talented lyricists singing words such as “It’s a bad idea me and you / It’s a bad idea me and you / Hold me close while I think this through”.
Overall, whilst the album is enjoyable to listen to the first time around, not much on the album really stands out. It feels like there is something missing, and I can’t imagine reaching for it like 14 year old me used to reach for Kaleidoscope Heart. It’s a nice album, but that’s just the problem – all it is, is ‘nice’.