The angsty teenage girl has been one of the core targets of songwriters in search of an audience for decades. Albums such as Carole King’s “Tapestry” had every female high school senior at the time singing “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” the night before graduation. Fast forward a few years and you’ve got Evanescence performing the soundtrack to every Hot Topic wearing teen girl’s Livejournal, along with Taylor Swift singing “Picture To Burn,” threatening to spread rumors about her ex if he won’t shut up. In 2008, the insecure, misunderstood, sometimes vengeful, and all around filled to the brim with emotions female heroine comes in the form of Lesley Roy.
Hailing from Dublin, Roy released her debut album “Unbeautiful” on September 30th via Jive Records. It’s the female empowerment record that the girls who think they’re too old to listen to Miley Cyrus but too young to listen to Alanis Morissette have been waiting for. The album kicks off with the lead single “I’m Gone, I’m Going,” Roy’s best attempt at emulating Kelly Clarkson’s superstar making “Since U Been Gone.” It’s got the same energy and independent spirit, but lacks the vocal power and infectious pop anthem formula that Clarkson provides. That being said, the song is still incredibly catchy, and if you’re a reality TV junkie then you’ve most likely also heard it as the theme to MTV’s “Exiled.” It’s not difficult to picture a 16 year old girl blasting this song in her Jonas Brothers poster splattered room after her crush has moved on to someone else.
The following song “Here For You Now,” is a complete fusion of the two polar ends of pop music. In one hand you have the verses with the edgy, scratchy vocals and heavy versus little instrumentation of a Meg & Dia song. Then in the other hand you’ve got the chorus sounding like cheesy S Club 7-esque pop hooks trying to disguise themselves as rock by adding guitar licks. Regardless of the awkwardness this synthesis of sounds would be assumed to make, it actually works and creates a good balance that evens out the song into a bonafide radio hit.
The lyrics within the title track skip around from pleading to questioning to a self deprecating decision to give up trying to win back Roy’s love. This variety of feelings, however, is not only reflected in her raspy to smooth vocal transitions, but is also consistent throughout the record as whole. When describing it on her website, Roy wrote that “There are a couple of themes that run through the album, evolving around the many different aspects in relationships, whether it is loss of love, not wanting to be in love, trying to help a friend through their own issues, struggling through death of a friend, unrequited love and the happiness and excitement of being in love. There is also a sense of not wanting to be hurt and trying to stand up for yourself after a difficult relationship.” With an entire spectrum of emotions to choose from, the deliberate lyrical unsteadiness of “Unbeautiful” was certainly the most appropriate track to name the album after.
Coming after “Unbeautiful” is the most memorable song on the record, “Psycho Bitch.” The lyrics sound like the thought process Carrie Underwood had after she made her man think twice “before he cheats” again. Hands down the heaviest rock song on the record, Roy lets out her inner jealous ex-girlfriend and confesses to a rancorous outburst. “Bet you never thought that I would be the psycho bitch like the kind of girl that’s gonna smash your headlights” she sing/screams after learning that her former lover is “hookedon someone” other than her. Although in hindsight it can be rather funny to picture the bitter ex lashing out, it makes the listener never want to be on Roy’s bad side, just in case there’s ever an “Even Bigger Pyscho Bitch” on her second album.
Next is “When I Look At You,” the most sexual song on the record. In it, Roy moves from her regular themes of the emotional aspects of a relationship to the physical side. After “drinking cheap wine,” her libido skyrockets and all she can think about how she wants to “get a room” with this sexy “James Dean” like guy. It’s not the album’s finest moment, but it’s a fun song nonetheless. Thing of it as a reject from Ashlee Simpson’s “Bittersweet World” album, in that the lyrics are overly simple and cliché but are still attempted to be sung like there’s substance behind them. However, the placement of this song on the record rounds out Roy’s personality because it demonstrates that she’s not just the somber and misunderstood lonely ex-girlfriend, but that she does in fact have a fun side and there’s more to her than just being a bucket of misery.
Following soon thereafter come the two most lyrically conventional songs on the record. It is almost as though they were written specifically for angsty teen girls to quote in their away messages and scribble throughout their diaries. “Dead But Breathing” sounds literally identical to every Avril Lavigne ballad ever recorded, yet still manages to tug the heart strings a little if you’re willing to move past its overwhelming cheesiness and conformist approach to breaking up. Then there’s “Misfit,” which upon first hearing, one would swear was a Fefe Dobson song from her self-titled album. In a way, the song can serve as a female alternative to The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus’ hit “Face Down.” No, it’s not the story of a man who beats his girlfriend, but rather about the abuse one inflicts upon them self in an attempt to feel alive. “See the one nobody wanted, shattered by a world of lies, see the misfit in the mirror die,” sings Roy. It’s a noble effort on her part to bring awareness to these situations, but I can’t help but not take the song seriously. Even though I’m sure it was written during a very troubled time in her life, the lyrics are just so ridiculously over the top that it sounds like a parody of every emo song ever written. Getting my 20 year old cynical male opinion out of the way though, the song is guaranteed to serve as the music of a few dozen hot pink skull decorated MySpace profiles.
While Roy’s debut album is nothing we haven’t heard a million times before, it’s still a rather decent pop record. Her lack of lyrical originality is made up for with her unique overly raspy voice that allows her to be half rock star and half belting diva. Unless you’re a die-hard fan though, the songs do begin to blend in together and sound the same after a while. They get to the point where you want to throw a Prozac prescription at her and tell her to move on with her life. However, I must give the album credit for completely achieving the goals of appealing to a certain audience demographic, because it can easily be the launching point to Roy’s inevitable stardom amongst outcast teenagers. It just goes to show that with a little emotional overflow and a guitar, you too can make a name for yourself in today’s MTV infused world.