When technology allows even your next door neighbour’s dog to sound passable enough to release a hit single, we often look to songwriting, melody and production as the main driving forces behind pop music. We can catch ourselves presuming that if an artist is writing their own songs, playing guitar and has the driving force of a major label behind them then maybe their singing ability isn’t all that. Yet tonight at Camden’s Barfly venue the clarity in 19-year-old Alessia Cara’s voice has the packed out room enthralled. Her nerves show in between songs, explaining the reasoning behind her teenage themed songs in chirpy rapid-fire bursts as she heads into another incredible display of her vocals.
The Canadian songstress from Brampton, a suburb just outside of Six God territory, at times feels hard to place; clearly a positive role model for the kids of today wearing little make-up and opting for a flannel shirt rather than a mini-skirt, and her songs are positive although there are mild drug references that wouldn’t have been acceptable in pre-Miley Cyrus teenage pop music. She’s a product of a generation that have grown up with the Internet, unsheltered and with access to a broader range of influence, faced with more choices and encouraged to be individual. You can hear it in her music, which is hard to tie down to any genre. Her breakthrough single ‘Here’ soars above anything else she plays tonight, reimagining Isaac Hayes’ ‘Ike’s Rap II’ as she sings about being the one who’s been dragged, out of her comfort zone, to a house party.
The following day when we meet up with Alessia at the West London hotel she crashed at for the night before heading on a string of globe-trotting in support of her newly released Four Pink Walls EP, she’s decidedly more calm and collected. Sat, coincidentally, below a portrait of her idol Amy Winehouse, she admits that the transition from performing in her bedroom to the stage has been difficult. “I was a very shy person especially when it came to singing. If you asked me to sing for you last year I’d be like ‘I can’t do it’ face to face. Now it’s just such a different game, everything shifted so quickly. I had to force myself because I was getting all this attention all at once from this one song, and I found myself having to perform everywhere.” It’s the curse of the Internet generation, delving into other worlds through a laptop screen can only get you so far, eventually you have to graduate the bedroom and start playing live. Being thrown in at the deep end has done Alessia well.