Skylar Grey’s sophomore album, which dropped last September, offers something quite different to her first. Natural Causes provides consistency in a way Don’t Look Down failed to by setting the tone from the beginning of the first song and keeping it going right until the final track.
If you haven’t heard of Skylar Grey, that’s unfortunate, but not surprising as her most famous work is usually sung by other artists. She’s responsible for writing some of the biggest hits we’ve seen during the last decade, such as Love the Way You Lie by Eminem feat. Rihanna and Coming Home by Diddy – Dirty Money feat. Skylar Grey, so it’s hardly surprising that her own album is so powerful.
The album opens with the eery Intro – Wilderness which features little besides Grey’s vocals, which sound electronic and make the listener feel like they’re alone in the woods with the “wolves” Grey sings about. Jump, the first full song on the record, features lyrics that revolve around feeling free, which is emphasised by the basic beat and hand clap combination on loop in the background.
Lemonade, the strongest track on the album, serves as a breath of fresh air when it opens with the strum of a guitar combined with an up-tempo beat. But, don’t be fooled by the sound as the lyrics hint at an unhealthy relationship Grey was in. She sings that she could have found “someone who wouldn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth,” but implies that she really enjoyed the torment of the relationship as “it’s all worth it” in the end. The track is placed perfectly as the third on the record as it offers something different from the first two to the listener without straying from who Grey is as an artist.
Kill for You (feat. Eminem), the fourth track on the record, opens with the sound of guns being fired in the rain, making it immediately clear that this song isn’t going to be any lighter than the first three were. The song has a strong beat behind it and its implications that Grey is being manipulated by her lover are reminiscent of her 2010 hit Love the Way You Lie. The song was originally going to be given to Rihanna, who tweeted lyrics from the chorus back in 2014, but Grey eventually managed to keep it for herself which she was “secretly happy about”.
Come up for Air showcases Grey’s vocals as she sings about waiting for her lover to return to her. Grey’s pain is amplified by a heavy drum beat that can be heard throughout the song as her words echo as she sings. This echo makes the listener feel the longing that the lyrics portray as Grey sings of waiting for the person she misses to “come up for air” so she can be with them again.
Despite featuring acoustic songs such as Moving Mountains, the second half of the album shows Grey experimenting with new sounds that are unlike anything she has ever released before. Straight Shooter experiments with rap and is a tongue-in-cheek song that is reminiscent of Grey’s 2012 single C’Mon Let Me Ride. Picture Perfect boasts a hypnotic beat and begins to bring the album to a close, but not before Grey delivers two more acoustic songs to solidify Natural Causes as one of the best albums of 2016.
We Used to Be Bad is a song that makes the listener reminiscent of a childhood they never had. It paints Grey as someone who lived dangerously, “burning through daddy’s cash and our nana’s cigarettes,” and is now nostalgically reminiscing about the best time of her life. The final track, Closer, closes the album in a way that is similar to White Suburban (the final track on Grey’s 2013 album Don’t Look Down). Like White Suburban, it was written and produced solely by Grey and it features little besides her voice and a piano, ending the album on a soft note and leaving her audience eager to hear more.
My rating: 5/5 stars.