Album Review: Ingrid Michaelson, ‘Lights Out’

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In regards to her new album, Lights Out, Ingrid Michaelson said, “The last year has been one of the most challenging of my life. This album is a reflection of all of that. It’s about being pushed to your limits and looking for help from something other than yourself. It’s about letting go and being alright with that, accepting that.”

After listening to the singer-songwriter’s fifth studio album, it makes sense. This isn’t the light and fluffy vocals and the upbeat tempos that the singer-songwriter normally adheres to. No, this is pretty raw. Any readers out there, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t recall a time when Michaelson has been this vulnerable with her listeners. In some cases, this really works, but in others it almost seems forced.

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Most of the tracks that really impressed me on Lights Out, were the ones where Michaelson collaborated with other artists. This album features a bunch of familiar faces including: A Great Big World, Greg Laswell, Storyman, Trent Dabs, and Mat Kearney. Out of the six tracks that featured special guests, my favorite was “One Night Town” featuring Kearney, in fact this was actually my favorite track on the album as a whole. I really loved how the melody has this Disney movie soundtrack vibe and the way Kearney and Michaelson’s voices just bounce off each other. Another collaboration track that works well (surprisingly) is “Over You” with A Great Big World. I absolutely loathe the duo’s breakout hit “Say Something” and I totally wish this was the track that put A Great Big World on the map instead. Maybe the duo just needed to add a female voice to woo me, because the way their vocals interact with Michaelson’s was done exceptionally well.

Aside from the collaborations, I also loved the album’s first single “Girls Chase Boys,” as well as “Home,” “Afterlife” and “Warpath.” This could be because they are more in tune with what I’m used to with Michaelson but I also think it part of it is how gloomy this album is. Speaking of the melancholy tone, let’s go back to that. I really liked how we heard a more vulnerable side of Michaelson, something that we’ve never heard before. It was definitely a little weird at first to hear such sadness coming from her, but it is commendable that she is starting to show so much versatility and growth.

But like I said before, there were some instances where it did not work. The first case of this happens in “Wonderful Unknown” featuring Laswell. Michaelson’s vocals against the drums were not a good combination. It almost felt as if the song was lagging on and on just for the hell of it. The feeling of dread I never thought I’d experience with Michaelson comes back again towards the end of the album. I almost fell asleep during the Trent Dabs collaborations and the last track “Everybody’s Going to Love Me Now” is just a huge snorefest.

But I can’t hold all of this against Ingrid Michaelson. I just can’t. Her music has done so much for me in my formative years and I feel like Lights Out is her way of saying the tables have turned. She clearly needed to express herself and because her music helped me do that myself, I’ll give her a pass. Next time, I expect her to either have some sort of equilibrium in her tone or just pick one or the other and stick with it. For all intensive purposes, I hope it is not the latter.