Alessia Cara Flourishes With “In the Meantime”

Cara’s newly released album left me craving more.


Ted Eytan

Alessia Cara performing her album “Growing Pains” at Times Square in 2018.

Abby Tucker, Staff Writer

Alessia Cara is back and better than ever.

Her new album “In the Meantime” demonstrates her growth as an artist, from bubble gum pop to a more mature and moving sound. 

“In the Meantime” deserves to be played while you’re running through halls of an art gallery, or dancing in an empty studio.

Upon searching for new music, I noticed singer Alessia Cara had just released an album. This was a golden opportunity, so I painted while listening to the narrative created by her music. Before now, I’ve never been a super avid fan of Cara, but this album grabbed me by the ears and refused to let go. 

In her third album, the “Scars to Your Beautiful” singer doesn’t let us down. It followed the release of her debut and sophomore albums: “Know It-All” and “The Pains of Growing,” respectively. 

The 18 new songs reflect on her life as a vicenarian, with a relationship, pop career, and personal growth. They’re intertwined into a narrative Alessia spun centering around her hopeless yet hopeful romance, combining realities of life with harmonic refrains: It’s so much harder to be honest/With yourself at 20 something,” Cara sings in “Best Days”

To start, “Inboxing Intro” runs us into an unfolding colorful, chaotic world created by her passionate vocals.

It particularly describes the whirlwind in the line, “In reality, is it all a dream?/Such duality, animosity, need some clarity, I miss therapy.” The song builds up to its highest point and stops suddenly, leaving the listener on a cliffhanger.

“Inboxing Intro” is personally my favorite part of the album because it captures the feelings of chaos and wonder perfectly.

Some of her songs, such as “Fishbowl,” “Somebody Else,” and “I Miss You, Don’t Call Me”, have a more ordinary tune and sound like the average pop song on the radio. However, she redeems herself with genuine lyrics and stunning vocals.

We begin in a seeming “Box out in the Ocean”, with  a reggae-inspired feel, drifting while we hear how Cara threw out her thoughts into a box and left them to drift away. The song ends and we then float through the bossa nova- sounding melody of “Bluebird”. 

“Lie to Me” especially stands out earlier in the album, sounding as dauntless and unforgivingly vivid as it does catchy. She firmly sets the tone in accusing her lover of lying to her, and the song will definitely be stuck in your head for days.

The song “Shapeshifter” has a more sophisticated, Amy Winehouse feel, cutting through the line, “Did I get fooled, or are you just a fool like me?” It represents the more mature and pleasant parts of the album.

“Middle Ground” is a pop collaboration with Montgomery rapper, CHIKA. On the track, both Alessia and CHIKA talk about their frustrations with being indecisive. Though it can’t speak for itself, the collaboration adds to the album as a whole. 

“I don’t need a man and all that jazz/But come to think of butterflies and starry-eyes, I don’t remember hating it,” Cara declares on “Middle Ground,” seeking a compromise between staying single and seeking for a relationship. “It’s not romantic, just problematic,”  Cara sings amid resonant chords in “Drama Queen”, in which she compares a rocky relationship against Hollywood ideals of love.

The lyrics throughout the album pose a conflict between her seeking love again and moving on, and this conflict jarringly contrasts from the crisp, pristine sound of the album. The transitions between each song and mood are seamless and well-executed.

Alessia shares her worries about the future with the line, “What if my best days are the days I’ve left behind?” “Best days” is a slightly overdone, cliche-sounding piano ballad, but it’s open and honest. 

Next is “Sweet dream,”  an earnest and honest piece surrounding Alessia Cara’s experiences with insomnia. The enjoyable, light pop sound is something Cara masters quite well as she pays close attention to detail.

Tender and rhythmic, “Find My Boy” is a tropical-sounding song about Cara looking for her love interest. She ponders, “Are you short and sweet with a love for poems?/Are you by the beach doing yoga poses?/Man of my dreams.” Her fun imagination and longing to find her lover completes the track.

In my opinion, the beginning of the album is the best, as the album slows a bit at the end because numbers such as “Slow Lie”, and “You Let Me Down” are more repetitive and less memorable. While it can be argued Cara ties in messages from other tracks in these songs, she reuses lines and repeats themes a bit too often.

Fortunately, the album finishes stronger with “Apartment Song,” in which Cara expresses finding bliss in solitude. It leaves us with an open and hopeful ending to her future and what comes next.

Cara has definitely found her unique voice since her first song “Here” in 2015. She has continued to unlock creative potential with her vocals and storytelling, and it’s obvious through her work that she loves what she does.