Alessia Cara’s ‘Know-It-All’: Album Review
By now, most of the world has heard “Here” — the debut single from Canadian upstart Alessia Cara. The track, which is packed with unapologetic gumption, propelled Cara to American notoriety, as the wunderkind painted an idyllic portrait of what socially awkward teens (and at times, adults) feel in uncomfortable environments. And what’s funny is that the “millennials” (or is it “Generation Z’s”?) idea of “not fun” is the perceived idea of present-day fun for our youth.
Perhaps that’s what initially drew everyone to Cara (besides her stellar smoky vocals): the thought that the 19-year-old starlet was different from her peers, with a deeper understanding of the human condition (her Sebastian Kole co-penned joint was equal parts pensive and catchy). But then misnomers were tossed around. Alessia was being called an “outcast” (in strangely the most pleasant way possible), when really the artist was just offering an alternative to the fun we see in teen movies and CW dramas. She smashes those sweeping generalizations with Know-It-All, the bright yet thoughtful debut album from teenage Alessia Cara (out today, ), whose success will travel well into adulthood.
Know-It-All definitely impresses upon Alessia’s revealed knack for big anthemic pop tracks (something that wasn’t introduced with “Here,” as that single carried a whole other skill set). Every song from her Four Pink Walls EP is present on the album, whose title is a punny pull quote from one of her songs where she criticizes herself for thinking she knows it all.
The added songs include “Wild Things,” a rhythmic rebellious track about not conforming to society (“I lose my balance on these eggshells,” she says. “I’d rather be a wild one instead.”). The Sebastian Kole-featured “Stone” is a gentler love song (along with “Stars”), while “Overdose” is a punchier moment. Of course there’s a counterbalance to that with the soulful “River Of Tears.” “Scars To Your Beautiful” is a modern-day version of TLC’s “Unpretty,” in its acknowledgment of the beauty in both visible and invisible imperfections. “My Song” is arguably Alessia Cara’s statement of intent, her reason for being “here,” and where she plans to go.
For anyone who didn’t digest the EP and will dive right into this project, here’s a spoiler: at 19 years old, Alessia Cara isn’t going to get her Joni Mitchell on for the duration of her first album, like most will wrongfully expect following “Here.” There is plenty of time for that, but right now this teen sensation has a bigger goal of speaking to the youth in a sonic language they can understand.
She’s undoubtedly unique — bridging a gap she’s possibly unaware of — and here to give hope to her generation for their own survival, not to reassure adults that not all kids are brats. Her voice is beautiful and the message is clear. Alessia Cara might not know it all, but she knows more than she thinks.
Idolator Score: 4/5
— Kathy Iandoli