Since her major label debut in 2007, Sara Bareilles’ career has been a crescendo of commercial and critical success: she scored a major hit with her very first single “Love Song,” then debuted at #1 with her second album, Kaleidoscope Heart and finally got a nomination for Album of the Year at the 2014 Grammys for her 3rd album The Blessed Unrest (whose lead single “Brave” became a sleeper hit simply for providing the inspiration for Katy Perry’s “Roar”).
In 2015, this gifted singer and songwriter was asked to compose the music for the musical Waitress, an adaptation of the omonymous 2007 film, which made its debut in August and will land on Broadway next April. The songs from the score are now part of Bareilles’ 4th album, which was released this week.
Despite being written specifically for a musical, one thing we can say for certain is that the songs still retain traits of Sara’s writing: the thumping piano melodies are not new to those who are familiar with her work and neither are the 60s and Blues influences in the productions. And while contextualising the tracks according to their place in the plot of the musical will obviously enhance their meaning, they are easy and pleasant to listen to on their own as well. The theatrical influences on tracks such as “When He Sees Me” or “Never Ever Getting Rid of Me,” certainly don’t hold us back from enjoying them as purely Pop songs.
The majority of the tracks on What’s Inside has an upbeat and vibrant sound. The melodies create a happy and energetic atmosphere that accelerates the flow of the album. The central moment of the album is, however, the show stopping “She Used to Be Mine,” chosen to anticipate the album. A stunning piano ballad that recalls the gravitas (no pun intended) of her own “Gravity,” another gem in Sara’s catalog.
The two duets with Jason Mraz are also two of the album’s best moments. Their voices blend perfectly and they provide a nice change of pace, particularly the upbeat “Bad Idea.” Sara’s warm vocals and elegant arrangements sound smoother than ever on this record, a sign that she’s growing as a singer along with her artistry.
Writing songs from someone else’s perspective can be a hard feat for an artist whose work is mainly autobiographical, as Bareilles has stated. With this album, she has proven that she’s more than capable of writing beautiful songs that come purely from the point of view a fictional character and this album could also open up the musical scene to a new audience and expand her own audience. We look forward to hearing how this experience will influence her work as a songwriter on the next album.