Earlier this year, Alessia Cara released her debut EP, Four Pink Walls, as an introduction to her debut album, Know It All, which was released on November 13th. Discovered by Universal Music Group and eventually signed onto Def Jam at the age of eighteen, Cara’s Know It All pays tribute to the four pink walls of her bedroom, inviting us to a world of thought that existed before fame came along and knocked the walls down.
Originally from Brampton, Ontario, Canada, Cara’s non professional singing career began as a Youtube star at the age of thirteen, where she covered acoustic versions of a slew of different songs from different genres. Growing up, Cara was an extremely shy person who wanted to making singing a career without the invasive burdens of fame that came along with it.
In an interview with Interview Magazine Cara said, “YouTube was a way for people to hear me and for me to say, ‘Hey, I can sing this song, I’m not in front of you yet because I’m too shy, but here’s how I sound for now.’” Cara’s patience worked out in the end, and today she has an original album to show for all the courage she built in staying true to herself and her music.
As the first track or the EP, “Seventeen” properly sets the tone for what was expected of her debut album: an alluring sound that undoubtedly catches the attention of many young fans, and a set of lyrics that compel them to listen to a voice that had a lot to say. A fairly simple beat to the sound of clapping hands is carried on throughout the song, interrupted only partially at each chorus for Cara’s voice to stand alone. The lyrics reveal that the song is about Cara growing up unaware of the how much her parents’ advice would impact her later in life. No longer “too young to understand what it means,” she sings about “[wishing she] could freeze time at seventeen,” a time in which she found meaning behind spoken words and purpose within herself.
When “Here” debuted at #4 on the Billboard/Twitter Emerging Artist chart, it was no surprise how quickly the second track of the EP rose to fame. Cara brings light to the dull reality of popularity as she sings from the perspective of a party-goer,“I would rather be at home all by myself not in this room/With people who don’t even care about my well-being.” Contrary to all of the songs about “goin’ up in the club,” “Here” is a party song about how overrated parties are – a topic that had rarely been tested before and that has never seen much success. The music itself immediately sets the song apart from the first track of the EP, a somber piano tune accompanied by an interluding series of sharp strings that enhances the message of the song and provides glimpses of what we can expect from Cara in the future.
Following a series of songs that cover unique topics, the third track of the EP, “Outlaws,” invites a more familiar teenage subject. Like the title suggests, the song revolves around the actions of two outlaws in love, going against it all and running away to be together. Among its catchy verses filled with promises to support each other during their getaway, Cara sings “We’ll be Outlaws/You and me/They’ll never understand the honor/Among these thieves.” Although it does succeed as a very typical, percussion-based pop song expected of any teen star, the lyrics are much simpler than what Cara has shown she is capable of.
Continuing the pattern of a love-struck teen, the fourth track of the EP, “I’m Yours,” details a very different love tale with a very similar up-beat tempo. As she sings, “Nobody asked you to get me attached to you/In fact you tricked me/And I wasn’t trying to fall in love but boy you pushed me,” Cara takes a withdrawn, hesitant stance on this new relationship. Though claiming a subtle annoyance with the boy behind the inspiration for the song, she ultimately admits giving into him, singing “But I tore down my walls/And opened my doors/And made room for one/So baby I’m yours.”
The final song on the EP is the title track, “Four Pink Walls,” and has a very distinct tune that sets it apart from the other four. Starting off with a whispery, autotuned harmony, the music fades into a surprisingly R&B, 90’s-esque sound accompanied by intermittent drums, trumpets and spinning static, all the while smoothed over by Cara’s soulful voice. A a single verse details the simpler life she lived before fame came her way and changed it, a thought Cara looks upon with slight melancholy. However, lines such as, “Amazed by the limelight/I can’t ever be afraid,” leave more positive feelings of her transition to fame. Though the song takes on the excitement of her rise to the top, she goes back to feelings of sorrow, “It was all in an instant man/But those four pink walls, now I kinda miss them man.”
The five songs on this EP showcase the different personalities Cara possesses and is willing to show us through her music. Although there’s no denying Cara’s vocal talent, perhaps the most impressive quality she has revealed is her songwriting ability. The control she practices in the process of writing her songs demonstrates her appeal to music that is both relatable and enjoyable. She has a unique, experimental sound that will continue to find success without giving into the mainstream anytime soon.