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Christina Perri attempts to branch out

By Jingyuan Fu
On April 2, 2014

Christina Perri emerged onto the musical scene in 2010 with the emotional ballad "Jar of Hearts," which used the metaphor of an ex-lover collecting a series of hearts to evoke visceral responses from listeners everywhere. This initial success led to a record deal and her second great hit, the similarly emotional "A Thousand Years," which was part of the soundtrack of "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn." These two hits, in conjunction with her first studio album-"Lovestrong"-has given the singer-songwriter quite the reputation for musical melodrama.
"Head or Heart," Perri's second studio album, attempts to branch out from her target audience with songs that sound more lighthearted. As the title suggests, a majority of the songs in "Head or Heart" deal with Perri's attempt to balance thought and emotion, meaning that even the more maudlin songs have a greater sense of nuance than any song in "Lovestrong" ever achieved. Perri sounds more confident in her performance ability as well, managing to bridge the gap between a more laid back folk style and her traditional pop sound.
The album begins with the song "Trust," which eases the listener into the album with lyrics and music that sound very much like what people expect from Perri. The very next song "Burning Gold," however, is a rapid departure from those expectations-with its uplifting and empowering lyrics, heavy percussion, and dance music influences, it sounds more like something out of "Florence and the Machine"'s second album than a song by Perri. The album then turns toward something more lighthearted; "Be My Forever," a lighthearted duet with indie darling Ed Sheeran, has a bouncy rhythm to it and is more playful than anything else Perri has ever performed, bringing to mind Ingrid Michaelson's similar duet "You and I."
Unfortunately, "Be My Forever" seems to be as far as Perri is willing to go in the way of deviating from her previous style. Beginning with the song "Human"-the album's lead single, which has already achieved a degree of success-the music returns to standard form. "Human" offers a dream-like and emotionally heavy look on an unhealthy relationship, a subject that Perri's written about many times before. The musical style of the song is interesting in that it combines the intimate atmosphere typical of Perri with a highly energetic chorus that is decidedly unlike the chorus of "Jar of Hearts," but the lyrics are largely unremarkable.
The rest of the songs in "Head or Heart" are piano-based love songs that are pleasant enough but lack the excitement in the album's front half. "Butterfly" stands out as a particularly emotional piece that offers up a neat metaphor for love troubles. However, coming from a songwriter who had previously used the visceral image of a literal heart collector on this very same topic, it is nothing special. In the end, "Head or Heart" may not be the complete reversal that some may hope for, but it is nevertheless earnest enough to make an enjoyable listening experience.

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