September 21, 2016 Ingrid Michaelson – It Doesn’t Have to Make Sense (Album Review)
Ingrid Michaelson might not necessarily be a household name, but over more than a decade, the New York native has crafted quirky, sometimes sassy and endearing tunes along with heart-wrenching ballads. The singer-songwriter’s seventh studio album, It Doesn’t Have to Make Sense, is no exception. Once again, Michaelson proves she can easily deliver a girl-power anthem and then break your heart in the next breath. Michaelson’s hold on Indie-Pop is strong. She is a deeply honest artist that knows when to have a little fun, and her latest effort provides a balance of deeply emotional confessionals and infectious sing-along tracks. It Doesn’t Have to Make Sense is about love, loss, as well as strength, and Michaelson’s execution of those themes is seamless.
The mesmerizing opening track, “Light Me Up,” beautifully showcases Michaelson’s ability to captivate with a sweeping piano melody accompanied by a haunting and powerful vocal. The song, an ode to Michaelson’s late mother, is simple, but deeply empowering and affecting. Michaelson continues to inch her way into her audience’s heart with “Whole Lot of Heart.” The track, while a ballad, has an anthemic quality. It is soulful and simple, but also powerful. Michaelson delivers the message that there is light beyond the darkness, and while overcoming loss, one can find strength. While the instrumentation and melody of “Whole Lot of Heart” contains a somewhat somber tone, the song remains uplifting.
Michaelson peppers It Doesn’t Have to Make Sense with a feeling of resilience. In “Miss America,” she gets inspirational with some female empowerment and makes it clear she learned it from her mama. The song is a definitively more punched up Dance track while it celebrates self-worth and the beauty in being quirky, different, and unique with lyrics like, “I’ll never be Miss America/It’s not the way I always wanted to be/Don’t need a crown to make me a queen.” “Another Life” takes a turn into a whimsical fantasy with a lullaby quality in the chorus, which showcases the beauty of Michaelson’s upper register. There is a romantic, fairy-tale essence to the track, with its symphonic instrumentation layered over the haunting piano melody.
If there is anything that Michaelson can do, it is let you deep into her soul. In “I Remember Her,” she reaches the depths of her pain, recalling the elements of her past that define her relationship with her late mother. It is gripping, it is heart-breakingly sad, and it is overwhelmingly touching. The piano ballad is lyrically poignant as Michaelson sings, “She would sing me lullabies/Gave me my hazel eyes/And then she’d call me beautiful/She made me beautiful.” The song is deeply personal and it is that openness that Michaelson is willing to give that makes the track so impactful, and an audience so thankful. Michaelson continues to evoke emotion in “Drink You Gone,” another piano-driven tune overlaid with a stirring string accompaniment. There is a forlorn and somber quality to both the melody and lyrics as Michaelson sings, “Like a sinking ship while the band plays on/When I dream you’re there, I can’t even sleep you gone/How do broken hearts get strong?/Tell me, how do broken hearts get strong?”
But, Michaelson is strong and she puts that strength, along with a bit of sass, into the next track, lead single, “Hell No.” The girl-power-fueled break-up anthem is both fun and playful, a stand-out track as Michaelson provides a chorus everyone can sing-along to. It is catchy, carefree, and takes a step away from the darker elements of the album. The latter half of It Doesn’t Have to Make Sense demonstrates Michaelson’s ability to produce upbeat, infectious melodies. “Still the One” begs for the audience to clap along, while “Celebrate” is sure to bring a smile to your face. It is a beat-heavy track with a cheerful vibe that feels like a song of past summer nights. It has, as Michaelson proclaims, a “throwback” vibe.
The album closes with “Old Days,” a piano-ballad sprinkled with haunting violins that beautifully crescendo as Michaelson sings, “Hold On/I Hold On.” It is a fitting sentiment to end with, once again finding light in the dark. Ingrid Michaelson digs deeper on It Doesn’t Have to Make Sense while remaining true to the artist people have fallen in love with. She does not stray from her signature sound, but the honesty and transparency she injects into her latest effort give us something more tangible to reach for. CrypticRock gives It Doesn’t Have to Make Sense 4 out of 5 stars.