Without intentionally attaching any labels to Vanessa Carlton, the former ballerina, waitress and poet has tried her hand at a spot of singing and song writing. This is in the form of the intelligently crafted debut Be Not Nobody, which strongly hints at a Tori Amos and Fiona Apple influence with a decidedly marketable edge.
Guitar-based artists have the autonomy of being able to modify the sound of their music to suit the interest of their listener, yet pianists are limited to a constant sound. However, Carlton overcomes this with a broad range of songs which act as a platform to display her versatility as a musician from the quirky single “A Thousand Miles,” which is metaphorically a thousand miles from the fervent “Paradise.” However, her attempts to broaden the framework of her songs are severely limited by the orchestra. The album is spoiled by the gleaming overproduction that frequently creates a theatrical drive behind the songs.
Furthermore, the orchestra masks Carlton’s individuality. When performing live and being interviewed, she presents herself as a spiritual and sincere musician, yet these attributes rarely materialize on the album. The potentially aggressive “Unsung,” the sentimental “Ordinary Day,” and the ambitious cover of “Paint It Black” display her more outward and insubordinate side, only to be quashed by the inflexible mould cast by the orchestral finish.
Despite the virtues that are lost within the production, Be Not Nobody has the telling signs of a young musician who has not been spoiled by the attention that she has received. There is a purity within the album, in particular the naively written credits page, which depicts a singer who has humbly risen through the ranks of the New York gig circuit. Despite the shadows cast by the album’s reserved polish, it is a credit to Carlton that her panache rises to the surface.
Written by Paul Newbold.