Verse over vocals: Scottish singer’s lyrics fall short

William Malsam

Amy Macdonald is a young, up-and-coming Scottish singer who reached platinum with her debut This is the Life in several European nations. She has yet to achieve much success in the United States. Life in a Beautiful Light, her third studio album, is an attempt to catch up with other UK juggernauts, like Adele, in the US. Sadly, her enthusiasm and unique voice do not compensate for the shortcomings in her song writing.

Don’t get me wrong; Macdonald has a very nice singing voice. Her youthful Scottish accent provides a believable innocence that compliments the simplicity of her lyrics. However, much to her dismay, the quality of her voice is really the most memorable thing on the album. Everything else lacks a necessary edge. 

Her lyrics, although pure and positive, tend to be cliche and boring. “Pride” proclaims her willingness to “move mountains” and “swim the seven seas” for her lover — a declaration so overused in music it should be retired like the jersey of a great baseball player. The opening track “4th of July” immediately attempts to pander to an American audience by recalling one dreamy night with a lover on Independence Day. But the song also demonstrates the limitations of her rhyming ability: “And I dream of the day when you’ll be mine/ And I’ll fly sky high on the fourth of July.” She swears in “The Furthest Star” that she’ll “be free for what I believe and I won’t sell my soul just to achieve my goal,” but maybe she should have sold her soul to enlist help from some better songwriters. 

If the music was inspiring, then the lyrical flaws could easily be overlooked, but this is not the case. Most of the songs feature the same rolling, toe-tapping drum beat that becomes repetitive near the end of the album. Her song structures are fairly predictable, with tight verses that build up to an expansive chorus, only to shrink back into another taut verse; however, this predictability does make it a good album to sing along to on a lazy summer day. “Slow it Down” is the strong point of the album, blending fast-paced indie rock and Scottish folk with much success. Macdonald’s vocal style is at its best on “Left That Body Long Ago,” a mournful, slow-paced song with intriguing lyrics that address the difficulties of personal change. 

Despite the potency of a couple of tracks, this upbeat album ultimately flounders due to its plainness. “Life in a Beautiful Light” simply offers nothing new, musically nor lyrically. Amy Macdonald has great potential, but this album, at its best, is a soft rock sing-along — save your $15 and find the singles you like on YouTube.