I can tell from the first listen what kind of relationship I will have with a CD. One of two things happens: I will instantly bond with the album, or I will remain uncommitted until several more listens – after which time I will either love it or I’ll put it away and never listen to it again. I own a lot of music, and I just don’t have time to go back and try to make myself enjoy something. It’s either there or it isn’t.
From the time I was halfway through a first listen of the first track on Songs From Instant Star, the soundtrack to the first season of the hit show Instant Star on The N, I knew I was destined to love it. It is deliciously singable and poppy, with choruses that sound better the louder I crank them up. Almost every song has memorable lyrics, the kind that remind you of the time you were in love with the hottest boy in homeroom and he didn’t know your name. It’s just GOOD.
Unlike a traditional soundtrack, which cobbles together songs from many artists to create a single mood, Songs From Instant Star is composed of songs the fans see written and produced on the television show. They are sung by Alexz Johnson, the singer-songwriter-actress who portrays the show’s main character Jude, who is easily as talented as any artist on the pop charts today. In fact, I truly believe that comparing Alexz to Kelly Clarkson is not unwarranted, and think it’s a shame she isn’t getting more attention.
Before I get into all the things I love, I want to be upfront about the things that could be better. There are a couple of songs that have painfully cheesy backing vocals, Britney-esque speaking parts, or misplaced reverb. After dozens of listens, “Criminal” and “It Could Be You” are the two that really stand out to me as not having quite as much finesse as the rest of the album. “In Love With My Guitar” is a freaking catchy ditty, but if you pay too much attention to the lyrics you’ll probably cringe. Finally, there is “Picking Up The Pieces,” which could easily have fit on any *NSYNC or Backstreet boys album – on the show it’s performed by an aging boyband, in fact. This means that I secretly love it, but it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. I should confess that even though these songs aren’t the best on the album, I still know all the words and never skip them on my iPod. So imagine how much I love the other stuff!
A whole lot, that’s how much I love the rest of this album. “24 Hours” is going on the next playlist I create, and probably the next ten after that, and I am going to make it my mission for everyone I know to have a copy. Even the opening lyrics alone are worth the price of admission: I’d been sitting in the dirt, I’d forgotten my own worth. It’s catchy and it’s TRUE. “Temporary Insanity,” “Your Eyes” and “Let Me Fall” all have glorious moments where you are moved to belt out the lyrics, regardless of whether the guy next to you at the stoplight is watching.
While most of the album was designed for road trips with the girls, there are a couple of ballads. “Skin” is the best of these, a song about betrayal so raw that it actually made me sniffle when it was performed on the show. It’s just Alexz and a guitar, with lyrics like these: Falling apart and all that I’m asking/Is it a crime or am I overreacting?/Oh, he’s under my skin/Just give me something to get rid of him/I’ve got a reason that’ll bury this alive/Another little white lie. Sometimes, when I’m feeling sad, I just put this on constant replay. It never gets old.
It’s true that, as a fan of Instant Star, I had already been exposed to these songs during the show. And in many cases I loved the snippets that were performed in episodes, so the fact that I loved the longer versions on the album probably isn’t surprising. Additionally, there is something to be said for being able to picture a little video-like bit of the episode in my head while I listen, for knowing where the song comes from. “Waste My Time” is a good example of this, because while I love the PG-rated rap in the middle, it might seem hokey to anyone who doesn’t know its history.
So, while I may seem to be a bit biased due to my well-established adoration for all things Instant Star, I hypothesize that, even if I had never seen an episode, I would still love Songs from Instant Star. And I feel strongly that anyone who’s ever spent more than 48 hours listening to nothing but “Since U Been Gone” will love it, too.