Shayna Leigh has courage. With only a few years of musical experience, her second EP, Hey Shayna Leigh, expands on her previous success with the single “Next to Me”. This new release packs a lot into just five songs, and for a solo female musician, Leigh has filled the EP with a lot of passion.
However, that passion falls short. The songs aren’t impressive and eventually run into each other. The musical elements collide and nothing seems original. The EP’s first song, “Last Criminal”, starts strong. Leigh’s voice has a unique tonal quality and the electronic background noise isn’t too overwhelming. Lines like, “I’m cleaning up my own mess/I’ll fake it until I make it out of these chains,” are clever and descriptive. But, the song fails to pick up. The big reveal is an increase of an illusion of instrumental release, but the sound remains the same. There’s a mismatched theme of love and crimes that surpasses my enjoyment.
I was hoping “Drive (Back to Where You Lived)” would turn my mind against the first impression. This song also includes an electric introduction, but there’s soft guitar accompanied by Leigh’s vocals that brings in a pretty element. That continues until Leigh sings, “just drive back to where you lived/back before you crashed,” and the chorus signals another dull climax. The prettiness of the simple guitar/vocal combination is replaced with a cheap auto-tuned, clapping melody that sounds unappealing. The sound has the potential to encompass and involve the listener, but instead stays constant. “Never Looking Back” also features Leigh’s vocals first and then uses a melody as a background filler. Musically, this song is the worst for me. This melody is also cheap and I’m unable to distinguish which instruments were used, featured, or forgotten. I know something is making the noise I’m hearing, but it sounds like it’s been electronically altered too much. The song’s melody, while upbeat, is a mess. The vocal ring doesn’t enhance and Leigh sounds bored. The lyrical content is so nice, though, with a strong message of moving forward. She sings things like, “a little dirt on my face/and nothing seems to change/I try to find a way/ to be okay,” and “of all the roads I would take/I’m never looking back,” that are inspirational and clean. But somewhere in the process, the vocal and musical elements became cloudy and the song just isn’t a pleasant listen.
The one song I can stand behind is “Crash”. The melody is a straight guitar that sounds authentic and real, while also dipping and diving in order to create surprise. There’s a slight build-up to the chorus, with a drum that introduces the catchy lyrical content. Leigh utilizes her vocal talents and actually shows range. The added effects aren’t cheesy or overwhelming, they are a nice addition. Leigh sings, “and here we are again/halfway to the moon/nowhere to land/gravity wins/free fall begins/maybe we crash/you and I/pretending we’re gods/fearless inside/maybe we crash,” while a guitar rushes to keep up and creates this intense environment. “Crash” is what Leigh needed to make this EP anything.
The single “Next to Me” is also not as bad as the other material. There’s a slight sass to it, and the melody is a little more sensual with a jazz edge. The climax of the chorus is a little more involved than other Hey Shayna Leigh material. But, the song still has some cheese. I do appreciate Leigh’s vocal range in this song and the variations in melody, but next to “Crash”, this song isn’t exactly what I needed to save this EP.
Shayna Leigh has displayed courage in releasing solo material at all. Hey Shayna Leigh is a great example of what she wants out of her music and that’s fantastic. There are problems with tracks sounding alike or not having enough of this or that, but she has so much more to show us, I think.