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Review: Alessia Cara, 'Know It All'

Note: NPR's audio for First Listens comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

Cover art for <em>Know It All</em>.
Meredith Truax / Courtesy of the artist.
Courtesy of the artist.
Cover art for Know It All.

Alessia Cara –19-year-old singer-songwriter from Brampton, outside Toronto – is lightly famous. She's a wearable degree of known due to her anthem for introverts, this year's "Here." With it she hoisted a flag for the anti-social butterflies and issued a challenge of sorts to those who dream about embracing their true outside-the-lines selves. Her level gaze out, from a life just grazed by the commercial music machine, turns our own thoughts inward. She's caught the ear of the cool kids and the uncertain, and she doesn't let go of either affinity group throughout her full-length debut album, Know It All. Cara interweaves more songs for those holding up the wall ("I'm Yours") and those in the middle of the floor ("Seventeen," "Wild Things," "Scars to Your Beautiful") to create an effort that perfectly illustrates the state of becoming.

Cara shines brighter in those moments when she's not in the spotlight, when she lets her vocal prowess and authentic lyricism and poise take over, as she does on the stripped-down "Here (2:00 AM Version)" and "Four Pink Walls." "I assumed that there was only room for my dreams in my dreams, so I'd sleep in repeat," she scat-sings swiftly, reminiscing of life before fame. Cara's yearning for normalcy comes as no surprise — she was only recently plucked from YouTube by Def Jam Records — but what's refreshing is how Cara uses Know It All to prove that she's bound to ascend pop's hierarchy, all the while doing what we've been told is not attractive to the buying public: standing strong in herself.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: November 4, 2015 at 11:00 PM CST
An earlier version of this story inaccurately identified the city of Brampton, Ontario, as part of Toronto.
Erika Ramirez
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