Talented artists that want to stay on top of the food chain in the music industry need to be able to convey several emotions and cover multiple genres. Lady Gaga does more than just pop. In fact, she performed medleys from The Sound of Music this past year at the Oscars. This vital ability to cover several topics and emotions was also displayed remarkably by Caitlyn Smith in her newest album Starfire.
Starfire features five songs in the country/rock genres, and all of them are well written and unique. “Before You Called Me Baby” is the first of the five on the album, containing a transparent message and powerful vocals. Opening lines, “Sure is hard to remember / Life before you weren’t in the picture” are sung with a steady strumming guitar and clearly depict a lover who has been transformed by their significant other. As more guitars and drums enter the message, Smith elevates her vocal range and coasts through the song with unthinkable strength as lyrics, “Before you called me baby /Before you looked me in the eye / I had nothing left to save me,” echo heart warming confidence and love. The only issue with this song is that her diction is not very clear (ironic, right?) and it may take more than just one listen to thoroughly enjoy to everything.
The second of the five songs presents a major contrast to its predecessor. “Do You Think About Me” opens with a harmonic softness and transpires into a soulful piece with beating drums and soft-spoken background vocals. The contrast here is that a lover’s significant other does not think about her. A disheartened tone with abrupt growls in the chorus further exemplify this message through the lyrics, “I think about you all damn night / I think about you all damn day / I think about you drivin’ around in the same little town / And going on without me baby.” Where this song goes wrong is in the instrumentals. The tempo of the drums is too quick, which takes away from the sorrow in the message. Furthermore, the necessity of the drums in the song is minimal because they go against the mood of the other elements at work. Again, sticking to variety, Smith next goes for something different in “Tacoma”.
“Tacoma” is truly unique because she co-wrote it with Bob DiPiero, a country singer from The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. This beautiful country song — my favorite in the album — opens with gentle chords from a guitar and blossoms with violins and steadily increasing drums. Background hums behind her really showcase the true beauty and softness of her vocal range, as even a couple of notes touch the tenor arena, which is quite south from the top of her vocal capacity. What truly shines in this song are the ways in which she vocalizes the chorus. The first time around is sweet and calm and the second one increases in power with the song. The third go-around is the pinnacle of incredible as a two-second pause of silence allows Smith to come in gun ablazing with a powerful vibratto and endless energy. Zero complaints at the end of the day here.
The rock aspects of Starfire stems from its title song. “Starfire” definitely has a sassy “can’t touch this” vibe. Lyrics “But you won’t burn out this starfire / This feeling is dancing in my flames / Throw me and I’ll just burn brighter / Oh, you can’t burn out this starfire / No matter what you say” evidently reflect this and sound awesome. Energy is certainly flowing through Smith and her backup singers all through the four and a half minutes and that positively contributes to her vibe, but not necessarily to the quality. After Smith finishes off her singing, the background singers actually finish off the song and it is very different hearing them alone. “You ain’t ever gonna burn me out” repeats as the song slowly closes and it just takes away from the mood of the song. To improve this, the vocals should cut out while Smith is rifting at the end or the vocals should just end altogether.
The fifth and final song of Starfire is “This Town is Killing Me”. The acoustic guitar accompanying this country song is super elegant and overall helps to deliver the emotion of the song. Her lyrics recognize the difficulty of making it in Nashville and she emphasizes the broken hearts and dripping tears of people who give everything to make their dreams come true in it. One final note to spotlight is that this song does not have a lot of vocal power, but emotional power. This, once again, proves my point that Starfire has a nice variety of emotions and vocal levels to enjoy, as well as a song to listen to for any emotion a person could be feeling.
Country/Rock l Skylark Records