To first grace the charts aged just 14 and have a third album released before your 20th birthday is an incredible feat by anyone’s standards. But for the innately wonderful Birdy – stage name of Hampshire-born artist Jasmine van den Bogaerde – this is second nature. From the intricate piano of her self-titled cover album to the raw intensity of Fire Within we experienced delicacy and sincerity of the kind only a young artist can give. Now, with the release of Beautiful Lies, we hear that same softness but tinged with a quiet empowerment and burgeoning maturity.
Opening track ‘Growing Pains’ strikes a perfect balance between fragile sincerity and a courageous sound, introducing the echoing depth and seamless sense of clarity that defines this album. With tracks ‘Shadow’ and ‘Wild Horses’ there is a sense of familiarity to Birdy’s earlier releases, but with a quiet intensity and winding layers of sound that mark a matured writer.
What is missing, it seems, is variety. It feels as if the quality of seven brilliant songs has been stretched thin across the album’s fourteen tracks. Birdy’s lyrics, though beautifully written, often lay heavy on the listener and fail to stand out. Across Beautiful Lies we find beautifully composed tracks that fail to inspire simple due to their lack of individuality.
Birdy does, however, return to that sincere and ethereal sound for which she is best known. The simplicity of ‘Lost It All’ and ‘Words’ is reminiscent of her debut piano covers, and show clearly her skill as a songwriter. And yet, there is still that burgeoning maturity can still be felt in ‘Unbroken’, it’s soft harmonies bringing a sense of old and new combined.
Breaking away from this album’s subdued mood ‘Keep Your Head Up’ and ‘Hear You Calling’ inject some much needed colour into the monotone. It is in the dance-esque feel of the latter and intriguing beat of the former that we best feel the influences of writers Wayne Hector (Nicki Minaj, Olly Murs) and Steve Mac (One Direction, Charlie XCX). Through these collaborations we hear Birdy at her most pop, but furthest from her roots.
Thankfully, however, the album’s closing track and namesake ‘Beautiful Lies’ marks a return to a more classic Birdy sound, that same sound which shot her to success five years ago. From the very start, this young artist has had an enchanting quality that is impossible to forget.