Alyssa is a Canadian singer/songwriter who was born in Edmonton, Alberta and grew up in Brampton, Ontario. She’s been rising to fame in several countries ever since she first released her song “Alone Again” in 2011. The song immediately caught people’s attention because it samples parts of “Alone” by Heart. As for how she got a record deal, she has Youtube to thank for that because her label, Wax Records, happened to catch her covering a Justin Bieber song on there and they were very impressed. The Game was released in Canada on June 21, 2011 but it has only now finally been released in the U.S. under license to Ultra Records on May 5, 2013.
The album opens with a short song called “Letting Go,” which simply consists of Alyssa passionately singing along to piano. Perhaps the most noteworthy thing about it is that it showcases Alyssa’s ability to write honest, heartfelt lyrics. “I took a chance now I’m letting go,” she sings as the song ends, her voice showing sweet vulnerability.
And then track two begins… And you’re in a totally different realm. Big beats, pop lyrics, sugary melodies, a cameo from Snoop Dogg… It’s mainstream pop 101. But even Alyssa’s pop lyrics are better than those of most of her peers. “It’s all part of the game, we all play the same,” she sings matter-of-factly and it sounds less like a call to party and more like a cautionary tale. Or perhaps I’m reading too much into it. The simple fact of the matter is that I instantly fell in love with the song, so I might be looking for reasons to justify that, since it ultimately could be described as candy-coated bubblegum pop. (Not that I ever feel guilty for listening to bubblegum pop.)
“I didn’t let you run me dry, you couldn’t stand the test of time,” she sings over a throbbing beat during the club-ready banger “Xo.” “I gave you my heart,” she sings over and over, her voice hovering just above glimmering synth. “It’s Xs and Os and the game has just started,” goes the chorus. “If you want to stay then learn to play the game.” Does it sound an awful lot like “The Game”? Lyrically, sure. But each track has its own distinctive beats, although they are both juggernauts aimed to please dance fanatics and Katy Perry fans. To that end, if I had to compare Alyssa to one artist, it would probably be Katy. Both have immensely catchy hooks, solid lyrics, the ability to sound both joyful and vulnerable, etc.
Not all of Alyssa’s songs are intended to be major pop anthems. Take “The Dark Side,” for example. “Forget the memory, there ain’t no six underground, come save me now,” she pleads, her voice sounding vulnerable even though it’s been processed a bit to make it sound darker. I especially like that lyric because “Six Underground” was a popular song by The Sneaker Pimps, and I’m assuming she put that in her lyrics as a homage. Ultimately, “The Dark Side” does turn into something danceable, but it maintains a dark vibe throughout.
Another standout is the moving ballad “Go.” It has plenty of ferocious beats, but it centers around a hypnotic piano line. “I don’t care, cause you know I’m gonna go, so go, I don’t care, he won’t hear, didn’t waste your time, I don’t care, it was never about you now,” she sings and it’s as though she’s debating herself, letting listeners hear her internal monologue. Reading between the lines and feeling the emotions she projects throughout the song, the lyrics give you the impression that she wants him to change and be the person she wants, but she realizes that is never going to happen so, yes, she just wants him to go.
Alyssa proves that she’s a remarkable singer/songwriter with the song “Burned,” which simply consists of her vocals and an acoustic guitar. Admittedly, it feels odd for the album to suddenly go from all of these dance pop tracks to an acoustic guitar song, but what really matters is whether or not the song is good and “Burned” is quite touching, so including it was definitely worth the fact that it was going to stand out like a sore thumb. “I don’t want this to hurt, I already have my scars,” she sings. “In time you’ll find that if you play with fire you always get burned.” Ouch. No, seriously, she’s quite emotive and makes you feel her pain as you listen to her pour out her bleeding, broken heart here.
But what about the world famous “Alone Again”? Well, I should first point out that Jump Smokers guest on the U.S. version of the track, whereas someone called P. Reign appeared on the original version of the song. I don’t know why they changed it for the U.S. It’s probably just because Jump Smokers have become quite popular for their remixes here in the States, so having them on Alyssa’s song is more of a selling point than having a guy nobody in the States knows on the track. In any case, the song is quite a good. I really like how Alyssa interpreted it and made it her own but still kept enough of the Heart track that it doesn’t seem like a rip off. And I must say she sings it quite well. Not many people can sing Heart songs but Alyssa pulls it off brilliantly. At one point it actually gave me chills. (NOTE: I’ve never known Jump Smokers to be hip-hop artists, just remixers, and there’s quite a bit of rap on this track, so maybe P. Reign is actually still on the track and Jump Smokers just remixed it? If anyone knows, let me know, please.)
All in all, The Game is a very impressive pop album. Alyssa’s lyrics are full of witty observations and knowledge about love and life and the melodies she gives them are always fabulous. And the production is superb all around.