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Don't Look Down
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2013 release, the sophomore album from the singer/songwriter. The album's production was primarily handled by Alex da Kid and J.R. Rotem along with being executive produced by Eminem. Guest appearances on the album include Big Sean, Eminem, Travis Barker and Angel Haze.
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With Alex producing, Skylar wrote one of the biggest and most influential songs of the past decade--"Love the Way You Lie" as well as wrote and sang the hooks on other massive songs like "Words I Never Said" (Lupe), "Coming Home" (Diddy), and "I Need a Doctor" (Dre). When one listens to Skylar's original demos of these songs especially "Love the Way You Lie," there's just this tearing sadness and brutal vulnerability that demonstrates her incredible skill as both a songwriter as well as showcases her quiet yet unique and pitch perfect voice.
With this new album, I was really hoping that Skylar would really be able to be confident enough to push herself musically, yet be willing to reveal herself lyrically---and she kind of succeeds in this aspect. There is a subtle range between more hip hop influenced songs (the excellent "S***, Man!") to a darker more hypnotic pop ("Final Warning"). The piano driven "White Suburban" is pretty reminiscent of early Holly Brook though, and is actually one of the album standouts.
Unfortunately, I think this album suffered from being put on shelf for too long though, and then got re-worked too many times. Skylar is at her best when she is searingly honest with quiet instrumentation to back her up. I just felt there were several missed moments on this album though with too much production that leached out the emotion. Probably my biggest disappointment with this album is simply that I don't think it did Skylar justice, she's brilliantly talented and this just wasn't mind blowing.
That's not to say this album is bad in any way though. The majority of songs just work. The emotion, the lyrics, catchy music, Skylar's voice. "Clear Blue Sky" and "Wear Me Out" are early favorites. If we're being honest, Skylar at her worst is about 10x better than the majority of drivel out there. She's been singing professionally since age 6, and you can hear her total mastery of her voice as well as thoughtful song interpretation. At the end of the day, Skylar is not just a singer or songwriter, but an artist. She doesn't just sing a song, she crafts and builds them.
While all songs aren't created equally, I wouldn't recommend just buying singles as I don't think one would be able to tell which songs appeal from just listening to the samples or even a full one time listen. Skylar's music grows on you over time, and I think it's worth it to buy the whole album to figure out what personally appeals (provided this is your type of music in the first place obviously). For fans of Imogen Heap, Dido and fans of mixing pop with hip hop influences.
So in the last few days, I've realized that Skylar released several different versions of this album. Honestly, if she had been allowed to include a few of these songs on the official album--that would have bumped this up to 5 stars for me. See below for what versions contain what--and what matters.
Amazon & Target Deluxe CD Bonus Tracks:
"Weirdo"--lyrics too reminiscent of "Creep" for my taste but a nice track.
Itunes Bonus Tracks:
"Love the Way You Lie, PT. III (Original Demo)"--incidentally used to be on the "Buried Session of Skylar Grey" here on Amazon but has been removed since I bought it. More powerful than Part 1 and Part 2.
"Ticking Time Bomb"
Spotify Deluxe Edition:
"Only Thing I Hear"--Can't believe this wasn't included on the actual album. It's probably the best on it. Subtle and deeply emotional. I would definitely find this somewhere.
Floating around the internet:
"Can't Haunt Me"--A track with Marilyn Manson that was apparently cut all together from the album, but is also a standout track. Sexy vocals singing about zombies.