Valerie Nicole’s lead track on her album From the Heart is “Misunderstood,” a mood-heavy, piano-driven singer/songwriter piece that fits in nicely with the Fiona Apple/Sara Bareilles school of songwriting. The kiss-off lyrics are straightforward and punchy, delivered nicely by her dusky voice. The band fills out the sound well, with the bassist delivering some particularly memorable work. The song is a mature and filled-out piece of work, and an excellent kick-off to the album.
Unfortunately, nothing else on the album comes close to reaching the level of quality that “Misunderstood” sets as the standard. Valerie Nicole plays guitar as well as piano, but she plays piano with much more gravitas. Her guitar work is jangly, upbeat and beach-inflected rhythmically. This bubblegum pop sound is dramatically different than the mature, moody sound created on “Misunderstood.”
The bubblegum is what sticks for the majority of the album, resulting in a serious headscratcher for this critic. She clearly identified her best track, placed it first on the album, and then wrote a whole bunch of songs that have nothing to do with the first track to back it up. Even when she returns to piano for tunes like “Meant to Be” and “From the Heart,” the bubbly mood is retained instead of the strong, mature one.
From the Heart sets up a promise that it doesn’t even try to keep with the excellent “Misunderstood.” I hope that future releases from Valerie Nicole see her streamlining her approach and focusing on moods that are less disparate.