Maybe Christina Perri was born 15 years too late.
Here's what I mean by that. Back in the '90s, the music scene was full to the brim with brooding female singer/songwriters plumbing the inky depths of love, loss and disillusionment. Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant and Jewel marched stoically at the vanguard of the Lilith Fair phalanx, with Lisa Loeb, Shawn Colvin, Joan Osbourne, Indigo Girls, Dido, Suzanne Vega and Liz Phair (among many others) filling out the ranks behind them.
Perri would have fit right in. Her debut, lovestrong., features 12 aching songs (mostly low-key acoustic/piano ballads) about the hard lessons her heart has learned. The 24-year-old Philadelphian put it this way to popcrush.com: "I thought very long and hard about which songs I wanted to put on there. I mean, I wrote every song on the album. All the songs are about love because that is what inspires me, and all the songs have this element of strength."
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
"Arms" is one of two songs that doesn't take a sad turn for the worse. In it, Perri talks about relinquishing her fears because she's finally finding security in the arms of someone who loves her well ("I've never opened up/I've never truly loved till/You put your arms around me/ … You put your arms around me and I'm home"). "Penguin" is similarly sunny: "Love like this/May come once/Baby, it's fate/Like a soul mate."
"Miles" entreats a longtime love not to leave ("I won't make it alone/I need something to hold"), reminding him (in vain) of all they've endured together ("How hard it was, how hard we tried/How our hearts made it out alive"). On the other side of the coin from "Miles," "Jar of Hearts" (the album's breakthrough hit), has Perri determining not to give a man who broke her heart a chance to do so a second time ("I learned to live, half alive/And now you want me one more time/ … But I have grown too strong/To ever fall back in your arms/ … You don't get to get me back"). Both approaches have merit. Context is the key.
The opening lines of the album's opening track, "Bluebird," could serve as a mildly vulgar thesis of sorts for much of what follows. "How the h‑‑‑ does a broken heart/Get back together when it's torn apart/And teach itself to start beating again?" That's a question (repeated four times) that Christina really doesn't answer. Instead, we get a kaleidoscopic look at her brokenheartedness from a multitude of poignant-but-painful angles.
"The Lonely" confesses, "Too afraid to go inside/For the pain of one more loveless night/ … I'm the ghost of a girl/That I want to be the most/ … Broken pieces of a barely breathing story/Where once there was love." More of the same punctuates "Sad Song": "Today I'm gonna write a sad song/ … So everyone can see, that I'm very unhappy." The she adds, "I wonder what my mom and dad would say/If I told them that I cry each day/ … I wish I wasn't always cold/I wish I wasn't always alone." And the breakup song "Tragedy" simply laments, "Oh, you're my tragedy."
In addition to all that angst, "Bang Bang Bang" exults when an ex ends up on the business end of a metephorical gun ("Bang, she shot you/Karma tastes so sweet"), while "Mine" chronicles an illicit love affair ("What's with all the late night, liquored phone calls?/I don't think your lady likes me at all").
Apart from a small bit of profanity, glee over a guy getting his "due" and a passing reference to an immoral liaison, there's not a lot of genuinely objectionable content on Christina Perri's debut. But her nearly constant focus on the cracks in her broken heart left me gasping for emotional air. Strength of will and a resolve to make it through is evident on a few tracks. But a Lilith Fair-sized appetite for mournful introspection is absolutely required to "enjoy" this release.
New York Times reviewer Jon Caramanica had a similar experience. He writes, "[Perri's] angst becomes onerous over the length of an album. … Mostly she's downtrodden, and she can't see a way out."
I couldn't either.