Much of chanteuse Ingrid Michaelson’s charm lies in her unpretentious approach: Her sparse use of ukulele, piano, and guitar. Her warm voice. Her clean, catchy melodies.
On Everybody, which quickly soared to No. 1 on the iTunes charts, Michaelson evokes this simple style to mostly good effect. Part of the credit goes to the producers (of which she is one), who understand when to punctuate the minimalism with flourish. “The Chain,” for instance, is elevated by a vocal round at the climax, while “Man of Snow” benefits from an ethereal string section in the chorus.
Yet at times it is Michaelson’s austerity that snags her. This is most apparent in the lyrics, which can tread the line between earnest and treacly. I gotta see if I’m filled up when it’s only me/It’s not your fault but you just can’t be here she croons in “Once Was Love.” In “Locked Up,” she asks Have I taken a wrong turn? When will I learn? Great lyrics manage to be both personal and profound, and Michaelson seems to struggle sometimes.
The CD is also hit-or-miss in its efforts to break the routine with more daring tracks. One of the best songs, “Locked Up,” evokes the past Michaelson gem “Die Alone” with its spirited rock tinge. But on “Incredible Love,” she fails to infuse a sultry verse with the requisite grit, and ends up sounding strained.
Still, the CD is mostly appealing. On her final track and first single—”Maybe“—she makes it clear just how beguiling unfussiness can be. With a peppy guitar line, fresh harmonies, and accessible, clever lyrics, she evokes hope in the face of failed love. The result? It’s simply irresistible.