Alessia Cara’s “Know It All”: a soundtrack for angst, edge, ambition

Nineteen-year-old Alessia Cara’s debut album “Know It All” paints relatable portraits of teenhood.

by Mackenzie O'Guin, Design Editor

A teenage girl with a spacey, standoffish demeanor hangs boredly in the corner of a congested house party, worn Converse tapping impatiently on the stained carpet. The air is rank with thick pot smoke, cheap alcohol and the generic pulsation of stereo speakers. Obnoxious laughter cuts through the inaudibility. A boy falls to the ground near a trash can overflowing with smashed beer cans and red Solo cups, sweating and heaving up something acidic.
I did not anticipate falling in love with Alessia Cara’s debut album “Know It All” until I was transported into the foreign yet nostalgic portraits of teenhood painted by tracks like “Here” or “Four Pink Walls.” Initially, I was offput by the almost bubbly girlishness of Cara’s contemporary R&B brand, but within the first minute and a half of her nostalgic opening track “Seventeen,” a trend prevailed: Alessia Cara is wise beyond her years, and she doesn’t care who knows it.
Young artists (as well as young people in general) are faced with the complex issue of being old enough to be wise but young enough to have said wisdom discounted by others. Cara confronts this issue with a fearless elegance in other tracks as well, from jazzy old school jam “Outlaws” to the album’s heart wrenching closer, “My Song”. With a certain attitude and edginess, Cara demands at nineteen the respect of even the most seasoned artists.
However, this maturity doesn’t bog down Cara’s youthful beats. Ironically, the album’s crown jewel anti-party anthem “Here” wouldn’t be out of place at the claustrophobically rowdy house party Cara bashes within the song itself. I don’t particularly enjoy the bubblegum pop sound of “Know It All,” but the lyrical content adds the edge needed to keep from the songs becoming entirely hollow.
Suddenly, the scene shifts. The same messy-haired teenager collapses onto an unmade twin-size bed, eyeliner smeared and headphones blaring. She passes the rest of the night staring idly at one of the four bubblegum-colored walls. The beat pulsates comfortingly in her headphones, and she sinks contentedly into her wrinkled comforter in the personal triumph of her latest musical finding–a newly minted R&B singer with an endearing attitude, a freshly debuted idol who also once stared forlornly at her own four pink walls.