The first time I heard Rachel Platten, I just wanted to hear Andy Grammer.
She was one of the opening acts for Grammer’s “The Good Guys & A Girl Tour 2015” at the House of Blues in West Hollywood during April. I listened to her belt an upbeat message about resilience and vehemently pound her keyboard. The self-empowering lyrics resonated, and I looked up Platten when I got home and downloaded her 2015 single “Fight Song.” Not long after, I noticed it plagued the radio – many people spent the summer growing sick of her cheesy pop music.
Now she is an artist to watch. Platten released “Wildfire” Friday, her first full-length album with a major label, Columbia Records. At the time of the concert, I’d never heard of Platten – she was a 30-something musician whose songs had appeared mainly on ABC Family TV shows and the like since her debut album in 2003. By now I’ve heard “Fight Song” dozens of times on the radio, Platten has used the song to support cancer patients and has sung it with Taylor Swift in front of 50,000 Philadelphians.
Platten’s career has hope. She’s beautiful and sounds like Katy Perry or Taylor Swift or any other modern pop star. I was shocked, however, to find out that she’s 34 years old. Swift’s hit single “Our Song” was released in 2006 when she was 17. Katy Perry’s early hit “I Kissed a Girl” was released in 2008 when she was 23. Platten clearly joined the game late. Though her budding career might not skyrocket as those before her, she does have a similar sound and charisma as successful pop artists.
“Wildfire” was listed at No. 9 for iTunes Top Albums on Tuesday. It follows the same forceful vibe as her breakout single “Fight Song” and subsequent single “Stand by You.” Though it didn’t have the massive publicity of industry returners Adele and Justin Bieber, whose albums were listed at No. 1 and 2 respectively, “Wildfire” has gained a sizable audience, presumably of young teens because of her optimism, that I wouldn’t expect from a new artist with only two singles.
Others outside her fan base might cringe at her optimistic lyrics. Luckily, some numbers in “Wildfire” don’t focus solely on clichéd positivity and motivation, but also touch on themes of independence, regret and moving on. She takes a reflective tone in the slower “Congratulations” and “Better Place,” the latter of whose mellow rhythm pairs beautifully with Platten’s clear, high voice. Her raspy vocals in “Beating Me Up” are a pleasant break from her pop belting.
However, the majority of the album has an upbeat tune and continues Platten’s overall girl power image like in “Lone Ranger.” If listeners recoil at the cheerful message and melody in “Fight Song,” Platten probably isn’t going to become their favorite musician. At the same time, the songs are not all carbon copies of “Fight Song” as she incorporates tiny doses of influences like jazz or hip-hop to spice up some numbers.
Now I hear her new song “Hey Hey Hallelujah” featuring Grammer, and admittedly prefer Platten’s verses over Grammer’s.
– Lindsay Weinberg