The Pains of Growing

by: Alessia Cara

The Pains of Growing was released three and a half years after Alessia Cara's first single began a liftoff that led to platinum certifications, multiple Juno awards, and a Grammy. As accolades piled up, Cara experienced a complete between-albums profile maximization cycle, highlighted by featured appearances on songs by Zedd and Logic and a well-synchronized Disney connection with the Lin-Manuel Miranda-written theme for Moana. Cara's second album catches her at a point where she's simultaneously an emergent singer/songwriter and a bankable collaborative pop star. The Pains of Growing embraces the duality for better and worse. Having co-written everything on first album Know-It-All, Cara wrote an even higher percentage of the material here, including a few songs on her own. She also produces one of the finer ones, the primarily acoustic "I Don't Want To," a bittersweet, conflicted ballad. Pop & Oak co-produced over half of the debut and contribute to several of this album's most appealing songs, from the faintly Jade-echoing "Growing Pains" -- in the relatable anthem vein of "Scars to Your Beautiful" -- to "Trust My Lonely," where Cara sails off with some sweetly miniaturized digi-dub. Apart from a romantically content soul throwback with No I.D., through which Cara displays the increased richness in her voice, the album's remainder employs assorted hit-angling producers connected by pop success with young women. The Pains of Growing is consequently more fragmented and less consistent than Know-It-All, but Cara makes the best of it, generally writing in a slightly wiser and sharper manner from the same introverted homebody perspective. Even the "isolated life on the road" number "Wherever I Live," the album's lone post-fame moment, sounds like it was written by the person who made "Four Pink Walls." ~ Andy Kellman

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