It Doesn’t Have to Make Sense
Reviewed by: Geno Thackara
Ingrid Michaelson can be a lot of things: adorable pixie or heartbreaking crooner, restless spirit and cult favorite with quirky videos to match. 2014’s Lights Out was more successful than ever in combining her sensitive indie songwriter’s heart with big-league production and stadium-scale choruses, and in a way It Doesn’t Have to Make Sense is picking up where that one left off. In the meantime, though, she’s gone through a terribly rough patch and these songs can’t help reflecting it. This release makes sort of the tonal inverse of Lights Out: primarily thoughtful and sad with scattered moments of sunlight here and there.
That’s not to say this is a pure mopefest. Ingrid being Ingrid, she’s presumably incapable of making an album without at least a couple of those trademark earworms. The sassy kiss-off of “Hell No” will become a live singalong staple in no time, the same way the lightweight “Celebrate” belongs at a backyard cookout or “Miss America” has interesting dance-mix potential (and with a dash of empowerment on top). They’re refreshingly fun moments even if they can’t help feeling a tad out of place. The rest of IDHtMS is primarily Michaelson’s form of therapy after divorcing her husband and losing her mother. Of course it’s melancholy – sometimes even wrenching – but thankfully not bleak.
Her writing smarts don’t go away in the process. The occasional string arrangements are tasteful yet not overdone, while “Another Life” manages to keep shifting chords and musical keys without becoming clumsy. The album’s middle stretch makes the most touching string of songs she’s ever recorded and the vocal performance is heartfelt enough to match.
It Doesn’t Have to Make Sense shows the facets Michaelson fans know and love – pop lushness, appealing hooks and girl-next-door charm – then stretches her musical boundaries and adds an emotional depth we haven’t heard before. Those catchier singles may be the main draw for old-school fans attached to “Be OK” or “Girls Chase Boys,” while the ones who accept the whole package should also find it intense but rewarding.
Rating: Bittersweetly Listenable