2015’s unexpected smash hit Fight Song saw Rachel Platten’s debut onto the commercial pop music scene. Reaching Number 1 in both the UK and the US, fans were left with high expectations for the release of Wildfire, Platten’s first major studio album release, and one of the first releases of 2016.
Disappointingly, the album fails to build upon the success of its lead single, instead offering a measly selection of twelve generic, overly cheesy pop songs. Not one of the tracks is as catchy or seemingly genuine as Fight Song, with every single one of them sounding like basic album fillers. The lyrics are a cringe worthy attempt at empowerment, and the synthesised sounds and obvious auto tune become boring even a minute into the first song, Stand By You.
Speechless particularly stands out, and not in a good way – the synth beat and over-produced vocals combine to create something that could easily belong on an old Steps album. This is exactly where Platten goes wrong. Some amazing, high quality pop music is being produced at the moment, as showcased by Bieber’s latest release and Swift’s record breaking album, 1989. Instead of breaking out of the traditional pop bubble and building upon the excitement of Fight Song, Platten sticks to a boring formula which has been tried and tested thousands of times before. The end product is an extremely average album that blends in with every other pop release out there.
One of the potential saving graces of the album is Better Place, the most stripped back song on Wildfire. Involving just a piano and a violin, it slows down the fast-moving pace of the album and allows Platten’s undeniably good voice to have its moment. The lyrics move away from the exhausted theme of empowerment and onto love, which, whilst still cheesy, offers a welcome break. The country-esque violin also adds something different and refreshing, but the song as a whole is still nothing special. It does show, however, that Platten’s voice is a lot more suited to this style, making the other heavily produced songs sound even more forced in comparison. An album mixed with more of these kinds of country-pop tracks would have been far more comfortable to listen to and probably more true to Platten’s natural style.
Described by the Guardian as “the soundtrack to a thousand teen dramas”, Wildfire is an album which is sure to be a big hit amongst the tweens – I have no doubt that the 10 year old, Hannah Montana-obsessed me would have loved it. However, the exhaustingly cringey lyrics and overused auto tune makes it unlikely that the album will replicate the commercial success of its lead single, and I can personally guarantee that I will not be listening to it again any time soon.