published: 12 /
Confessional and heart-rending fifth album from Norwegian singer-songwriter, Maria Mena
Recently back from her first UK performance supporting Stevie Wonder’s Hard Rock Calling event in London’s Hyde Park, as the performer celebrated his 60th birthday, Norwegian singer-songwriter Maria Mena has refused to settle down.
Mena’s father, also a musician, shopped his teenaged daughter’s demo and landed her a deal with Sony Music, when she was only 14. By 15, she had already released her first two singles and debut album.
Now, at 23, Mena has amassed numerous awards including a Grammy for Best Female Artist, and a 2009 Norwegian Music Awards Best Female Artist. Mena’s fifth album ‘Cause and Effect’ finds the youthful artist investing herself deeply in a moving soundscape shrink-wrapped in honesty.
‘Power Trip Ballad’ is illuminated by two forceful notes, plunked on the keys, causing an exigent drone. “The way in which I fear is only a reflection of you/The devastating childhood/the power trip you forced me through”, Mena rails. Percussion builds until her transparent voice lands at this sanguine chorus: “You will always be the bitter saddest part of me.” The chorus is recast via a choir of innocent children’s voices.
‘Belly Up’ has a chaotic sonar landscape. “We lie belly up in a pool of us,” Mena confides, amidst several flouncing key adjustments. The song assumes a middle-eastern pattern, elegant strings and an unforgettable motif.
The confessionals continue with ‘All This Time.’ “You self-destructive little girl/Pick yourself up/Don’t blame the world,” Mena writhes. Faced with her parent’s separation at a tender age, Mena uses that sense of isolation as raw fodder for much of her most sensitive material. This fearless exploration of primal emotions makes excellent use of her disarming voice.
The title song ‘Cause and Effect’ includes caustic epiphanies about eating disorders set against naked guitar and hay wire explosions of orchestral sounds.
But, when ‘I’m on Your Side’ plays, we’re treated to a psalm. “I tightened my grip/I won’t let you slip/but it never felt like this before,” she encants. ‘Eyesore’ is the best of both worlds. “The ugly naked truth/she starves me of my youth.” is the phrase which establishes the self-deprecating, brutally frank theme, but the actual musical arrangement recalls the spirituality of an ‘Ave Maria.’ When she utters, “My worth is measured solely according to the scale,” and she rips apart the remnants of a childhood waiting to be restored, we empathize.
‘Where Were You?’with its stark arpeggios, serves up another bitter pill. “You could have prevented this,” she repeats, after revealing that she had “no one to sing for,” in this striking ballad.
Another heart-rending tale is told in ‘Self-Fulfilling Prophecy’ when Mena’s bright, but fragile rendering, includes this declaration: “This hunger grows inside me like a tumour.” The candor is bolstered with lush orchestral strings.
Both, ‘I’m in Love’, which simmers with the elegance of a ballroom waltz and ‘Dear…’ which explains: “Together we got good at stopping time,” explore the voltaic elements of romance.
Maria Mena’s streetwise songwriting strips bare stories told through smoke and mirrors. But, it’s her dreamy, matchless voice that raises the roof.
Power Trip Ballad
All This Time (Pick-Me-Up Song)
Cause And Effect
I'm On Your Side
Where Were You
I'm In Love
I Was Made For Lovin' You