Human Again: The new pop/rock album by Ingrid Michaelson

Jennifer Suh

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Ingrid Michaelson has returned to the top of the charts with her fifth studio album, Human Again. These 15 new tracks do not sound like her typical “happy Sunday morning songs,” however. Whether it’s because this is her first album as a 30-something or because the bubbly ukulele instrumentals have been lessened, Michaelson is certainly making strides in both the maturity and depth of her music.

When she released her first single, “Ghost,” last November, Michaelson hinted about the new direction in which her music was heading. The single still fits in the pop music genre, but it was hard to see any traces of the Michaelson that used to sing “The Way I Am,” a more acoustic rhythm-based song. As always, her vocals are clean and smooth, but the vibe of “Ghost” resembles Christina Perri, who sings somber pop songs like “Jar of Hearts.” Michaelson’s lyrics have gotten much darker as well: “I’m a ghost/haunting these halls/climbing these walls that I never knew were there and I’m lost.”

The new album begins with a track called “Fire.” The opening lyrics begin: “Open heart surgery/That is what you do to me/Cut me up, set me free/That is what you do to me.” These words signal only the beginning of the changes she is taking with her lyrics. Later, she goes on to sing “I’m walking in fire with you… you burn me up.” It is evident that she has begun straying away from music fit for teen dramas such as “One Tree Hill,” which has featured many of her songs on its soundtrack before. This new track also shows that she is incorporating more of a pop/rock element into her work. Just picture Sara Bareilles meets Kelly Clarkson.

Although Human Again is still another pop album, the general feel of the album has changed in that her sound has matured. Some tracks really stand out because of their unique elements. The guitar riffs used for the song “This is War” are much more elaborate than ever before. In the song “Do It Now,” an upbeat, melodious string instrument in the background is accompanied by her high-pitched vocals, the combination resembling the sounds of Imogen Heap. Of all the songs on the new album, “Black and Blue” is one that is completely different from the rest. There is no trace of acoustic guitar, but instead, strong beats with a rather jazzy rhythm.

There are still a couple of tracks, such as “Blood Brothers,” that are just like the old Ingrid Michaelson songs, light-hearted with breezy melodies, but this album shows that she really wants to take her work to a deeper level.

Michaelson will be playing at the Vic Theater in Chicago on April 12.

Jennifer Suh