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2017 release. For Jennifer Paige, Starflower is about sharing a deeper part of herself and rounding out her story musically. With a set of ten emotionally resonant new songs, Paige both covers ground about what she's experienced in recent years, and fully looks to the future as she redefines herself as an independent artist. "It starts and ends with the music.", Paige says. Her intent was to create a cohesive album, simple and direct, that let's the song shine and her voice carry the weight. The striking range and natural power of her vocals, combined with the hard-won strength of her lyrics achieve exactly that, aided by the skillful work of producer Jeremy Bose (Ingrid Michaelson, Joy Williams, Trent Dabbs, etc.), with whom Paige co-wrote the new songs. The last of the new tracks is the ethereal instrumental "If We Be Still." Stella Rose's coos can be heard in the background. "Even though this album covers a lot of emotions," says Paige, "I wanted to finish the album by expressing a sense of peace. I'm thankful for everything that I've experienced so far, and I'm excited for the future." Underscoring that sentiment, the album closes with Bose's acoustic mix of "Crush," recasting it with a serene dreaminess that infuses the song with new life."I like the original, and never wanted to re-record it until now," says Paige. "I love the way it turned out - I tip my hat to the past, and to what brings me here today."
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Between Devil's in the Details, Forget Me Not, Let Me Love You and To The Madness, these are the most heavy pop oriented and they're pretty much on the lighter side of that. On the song Forget Me Not, this song has a bit too dense of production and her voice is a bit drowned by the denseness. Unlike some of her other songs, the hook isn't as strong as it needs to be to grab you and plant it firmly in your head. In fact, I find that Jennifer's voice is a bit too buried in the mix on many of the songs. It's fine if the chorus is buried, but I prefer the main vocal to be fully front and center.
The songs that are mostly upbeat are recorded with a denseness that seems a bit unusual for Jennifer. I was expecting a more intimate release with her voice out in front. Instead, what I hear are lush, dense, ballad pop songs with heavy vocal overlays. January is basically a typical ballad with light strings, light guitar and piano. Her voice is clear here, but even still there's a vocal overlay that's a bit too dense even for this type of song. I'd have preferred to hear a much less dense vocal and instrument mix and, instead, offer a much more open and airy acoustic guitar with simple bass and drums.
I also find that most of the pop hooks on this release aren't super strong. I suppose every artist can't make a perfect album every release. This one is a good release, but it is most definitely not her best pop work. Crush is obviously the strongest song she's released. Though, Positively Somewhere and Best Kept Secret are solid pop releases with her vocals front and center. Starflower's songs are no where near that level of songwriting, but are definitely very listenable pop. Interestingly, there are only 10 songs here. The number of tracks also seems a little bit light for a full pop release. Usually 12 is more common.
None of this says I don't like the release. I do like it, but it won't find its way into heavier rotation in my Jennifer collection due to its heavier ballad leanings.