Vanessa Carlton’s Calming Complexities

Vanessa Carlton has sure journeyed more than a thousand miles since her debut 15 years ago. For one thing, she has morphed from writing quick, catchy tunes, to ballads with far more poetic lyrics. With her latest album Liberman, she has completely shed the image that so many still hold of her and has transformed from teen pop diva to a soothing sultry songstress. Gone are the up-tempo, repetitive schmaltz and in is the slow-paced dream-like lullabies and sensual ballads. This is the true Vanessa.

Now, obviously, Vanessa isn’t the first musician to transform her sound. Countless others have done so before and many others will follow. But her career trajectory is an interesting one. For the many who have a smash hit at the age of 20, they often fall into perilous oblivion. For a while it seemed as though Vanessa’s career might be over be it started, especially when her record company dropped her after her sophmore album. But she knew what she wanted to become, and it most certainly wasn’t a pop star.

While in some circles she might still be classified as “pop”, in others she could be known as a piano-rocker or perhaps a folk star. But above all, Vanessa Carlton is a storyteller, telling hilarious anecdotes as introductions to her songs, before taking the audience on an intricately-woven lyrical lullaby.

She has calmed and softened her sound, and I appreciate that. I am a sucker for piano anything, especially soft rock and Vanessa’s dream wave melodies are a surefire way to relax a mind after a triggering experience at the cinema.

Her show on Thursday was full of everything – ballads, lullabies for her daughter (the song “River”, which I’m already in love with), stories, piano, guitar, violin, and even candles and wine. Yes, Vanessa had it all; there was even a certain hit tune which she called her “fake last song”. I thought it might be jarring, given the tempo of her other songs that night, but “A Thousands Miles” was slowed down to fit in with the amazingly peaceful mood that befallen the Imperial at the start of the show.

Overall, it was a delightful experience, one which had a calming effect on a very active mind. Vanessa is proof that one doesn’t need a huge label – or any labels of any kind  to succeed. Just like in real life, true musicians are saying FUCK LABELS and being who they truly are. Vanessa Carlton is the epitome of that.


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