Album Review: Sit Still, Look PrettyWonkeyDude98 Mini-Description: In my twenty-second album review, I dissect Daya's debut album, and explain why she needs to sit still, shut it.
Best Songs: "Back To Me", "Cool"
Worst Songs: "Thirsty", "Talk", "In Case You Missed It", "Hideaway", "Legendary"
I've been dreading this album since Hideaway. I've already dealt with confused teen music that was incompetent and lacking in understanding of how the world works in 2016 in the form of Shawn Mendes and Halsey, but Daya is a much different case. Whereas Shawn Mendes and Halsey aren't even trying to do anything innovative or, well, beneficial to the human brain, Daya is someone who has a solution without a problem. As shown by her first two singles (as well as her self-titled EP), she has good intentions, but she has absolutely zero idea how to execute those ideas. (Given that this is the same thing I said about Meghan Trainor for her debut album before throwing away any effort for the sophomore, I can only imagine Daya's next album...) She was someone who spoke to a nonexistent teen demographic, and considering both of the singles, Hideaway and Sit Still Look Pretty, were terrible, the former being one of the worst songs I've heard this year (although Don't Let Me Down is still pretty good), I was expecting yet another bombshell of an album. Was I right?
Well...not really. Yes, this is a bad album, and will probably edge a spot on my worst albums of 2016 list, but this surprisingly wasn't as terrible as I would have imagined (great, this already sounds like Fantano's Revolution Radio review). Regardless, this album is a mess, and shows yet another singer with real talent throwing it away by cobbling together a messy debut album without a budget.
The instrumentation and production is a spot-on place to see that. Normally, people hate big-name producers like Max Martin or Timbaland because when they produce nearly everything that gets popular, it tends to get a bit samey. I mean, say what you want about them, at least they'd have an idea of how to make Daya's vocals work with the instrumentals! The listing here is almost completely anonymous, and you can tell. Almost every song on this album is slapdashed and trying desperately to grab on to a sound that it really can't pull off.
And you can tell this didn't have a budget either, because this album is thin. Most of these songs follow the percussion-over-melody template that plagues most pop, and that isn't justified, because the percussion doesn't even have that much heft or meat to it, which means that many of which could have been decent grooves on this album, like In Case You Missed It or Talk, are left feeling mostly unfinished.
One of my favorite albums of 2015 was, duh, Blurryface by twenty-øne piløts. One of the biggest criticisms people had towards the album was that while they were poking at commercial-sounding songs, they made the claims that the songs themselves sounded commercial. While this in itself I still believe to be a preposterous claim, what does this have to do with Daya? Because this album is exactly where those criticisms apply. Say what you want about twenty-øne piløts, at least they have the decency to give their songs more bite and vibrancy than here. Especially with the brittle icy whimper of In Case You Missed It and the weedy fragments of guitar in Legendary, this album's melodies are so dissonant, chintzy, and glassy, they sound like they can break at any moment and that's not a good thing.
And yes, I can also discredit most of the individual compositions, like the rubbery broken snare on the aforementioned Legendary, the staccato pianos that accent the fakeness of the drum machines on Hideaway, the howling echoey 90s trap of Talk, the runny bass rattle on the atrocious Thirsty, the cavernous hand-claps that build to a DJ Snake wannabe drop on Words, the bass that exaggerates the fake horns on U12, and the clapping reverb-saturated bulk of Dare, all contributing to an album that's grabbing for many styles at once, without any idea how these styles worked.
Now, to be fair, there were beats that mostly came together for me. The punchy rock-reggae of Love Of My Life and Got The Feeling, the shimmering blocks of synth and better mixed percussion of We Are (that although shamelessly ripped off Roses by the Chainsmokers), and...wait, that's it! Even then, these three only highlight a much bigger problem: for the former two, with the recent success of the twenty-øne piløts, Fifth Harmony, MAGIC!, and the atrocious Marc E. Bassy, there's nothing new or reviving about reggae. And with the latter...I mean, it's a shameless ripoff. The only three songs with production that I can like without qualms are the tighter plucks of the title track and Cool, and the surprisingly complex piano ballad Back To Me, mainly because these three manage to have a style and sound of their own.
It's even worse when you factor in Daya's vocals. I'll admit, the first few times I heard her voice, I didn't hate it too much, but that's because I had no idea who the far superior Zara Larsson and Alessia Cara were. Over time, I really started to despise her vocal tone, which is this screechy, nasal mess that's fronting with way more power than she can really back up. She sounds like Camila Cabello if she became an actual human being. And while mostly, she's not as insufferable overall as she is on the singles, she still complements this production...in the wrong way. It's so sharp, thin, brittle, and above all, trendy, to the point where I was kinda terrified of my ears being cut from the pokiness of the production and performance.
And this leads to my big issue with this album; the lyrics. These lyrics straddle the line between Lorde, Alessia Cara, and Halsey, and mostly they bend towards the latter two, and if you know what Halsey's lyrics are, that's not a good thing. I once saw a comment about this album, and I think it's very fitting: Daya, with this album, is trying to talk down to people who don't want to see her succeed in life and be something special, while basically implying that they're right about most of it. In other words, this isn't a "pot meet kettle" situation, this is a "pot meet copper kettle" situation.
The singles are a perfect example of this. Ignoring Hideaway's dual-handed sexism-by-proxy (no, boys don't inherently like girls who kiss and tell, and girls DEFINITELY don't like guys who don't appreciate effort), Daya says that she wants a boy who's up for the chase, but also still wants a good boy. Normally, good boys aren't up for the chase, miss.
And the title track is the other example, and lyrically it's arguably even worse. Ignoring the misguided Pretty Hurts reference, Daya says that she doesn't want to be one of those dolls who subjects herself to a man's every wish, but at the same time she still acknowledges that she's worthy of affection. So what is it you even want?
Possibly the worst example of this is the pseudo-anthem Talk, which is basically a "screw the haters" type of song where she says that she's simultaneously ice-cold and original, and yet she has good humor (normally people who are ice cold tend to be painfully unfunny) and is a throwback to the 90s. Even she's admitting that her musical style really isn't her own.
And when she isn't trying to stand out by conforming, she's dealing with relationships built on a lack of emotional pathos, and cowardice. A lot of these songs, including Love Of My Life, U12, Words, and Got The Feeling, are almost carbon-better-copies of Shawn Mendes' Three Empty Words. Now, one or two songs about this I get, but when almost half the album is about relationships that are basically glorified one-night stands, you really need to make them stand out, and Daya fails spectacularly. For example, Love Of My Life is a song about how Daya could like this guy, but she knows that he's not the one for him. So why are you showing him affection? And Words, where Daya tells a guy to shut his mouth and that "words only get in the way". So you don't want a relationship that's real? You don't want to try?
One song that stuck out for me that did neither was Thirsty, which is a strong contender for one of the worst songs I've heard this year period. Ignoring the horrendous cheerleader segment, Daya delivers so many gross beverage puns that I couldn't even get past the first chorus the first few times I heard it. It's honestly the most visually disgusting song I've heard since...well... 2012 by Chris Brown, you know, a song I covered just last review.
However, I want to come back to the piano ballad Back To Me, which is hands down the best song on this album mainly because of Daya's surprisingly expressive and almost raw scream-singing, probably her best song to date, and also because she handles it more maturely, talking about how she can't keep accepting this guy back because she's already broken the best part of herself, she can't keep catering to his neediness.
However, this isn't enough to redeem this album's biggest flaw: repetition. Ignoring how fragile and dated the production is, the lyrics on this album repeat themselves in a hurry, and that makes it almost impossible to distinguish each song, and we have yet another monochrome pop princess record as a result, in more ways than one.
Ugh, this album is bad, and it really shouldn't be. She takes influences from (if not blatantly ripping off) Lorde, Halsey, Alessia Cara, and Zara Larsson. I like 3/4 of these artists, how did THIS go wrong? Whatever, the only really positive thing I can say about this is that it could have been worse. I'm thinking a very, VERY strong 3/10and absolutely zero recommendation. Again, even in the age of pop princesses starting to ebb, you can do better than Daya. In any case, skip this. This is WonkeyDude98, and I still have Corey Feldman, IceJJFish, Sufjan Stevens, Koi Child, and Brand New to cover.
SPEAKING OF REVOLUTION RADIO...
Also, Daya is new day Kesha. She can be great when needed, but label forces her to make crud like this - ProPanda
Oops, sorry, forgot to mention, and Oh My My.
Also, didn't you like this album? - WonkeyDude98
Eh... the lyrics got to me - ProPanda
Good post. - Skullkid755
Good review. - visitor
Geez, what a long post. Still great, though. - visitor
thanks - WonkeyDude98
I would probably change the title of Dayas album
Congrats Daya you're album is now called S**t Still, Look Ugly - AlphaQ
What did you say about Halsey AKA best singer ever? Daya is bad, Halsey is best - visitor