Alessia Cara – Artist You Should Know

Written by

This past Wednesday, Alessia Cara made her live debut in front of a sold out audience at the Troubadour. If she was feeling nervous at all, it barely showed. Having already made her national television debut on the Tonight Show the week before, perhaps the prospect of playing to a room of a few hundred was far less intimidating than Jimmy Fallon’s audience of millions. Whatever the case, one thing was abundantly clear to everyone in attendance: Alessia Cara is the real deal.

Just a few months ago, Alessia Cara was recording herself singing covers her favorite songs on her laptop camera and posting them on youtube. Several of the videos were recorded in her closet so as not to disturb her little brother in the next room (her archive of videos, going back to 2011, is still up on her youtube page if you want to check them out).

She managed to build up a decent following with her youtube videos, and eventually caught the attention of some folks at Def Jam, the label probably best known for bringing hip hop to the masses over a decade before 19 year old Ms. Cara was born.

In May of this year, her debut single “Here” was released and I was immediately taken by it.

[youtube width=”500″ height=”344″][/youtube]

The last time I felt this strongly about a pop song from out of nowhere was when I heard Lorde’sRoyals” for the first time.

Cara’s presence is so commanding and soulful on the track. I’m generally not one to pay attention to lyrics on the first few listens of a song, but I found her tale of social introversion immediately relatable. Also, speaking as a beat-head, you can’t go wrong with an Isaac Hayes flip – it gives “Here” such an epic, sweeping feel that can’t help but be noticed.

Alessia Cara’s debut EP, Four Pink Walls, which includes “Here“, is set to drop at the of the month, with her album Know-It-All just around the corner.

Her performance at the Troubadour was my first taste of the rest of her material and despite my sky-high expectations, I am happy to report that I did not leave disappointed. “Seventeen” which is the first song on the EP has a very Lorde-like feel to it. She also impressed with a soulful acoustic cover of the Neighbourhood’sSweater Weather” (you can check out a version of this track that she did on youtube a couple years ago). Vocally, the influence of Amy Winehouse loomed large throughout the performance (which included an impromptu acapella cover of “Valerie“, as voted on by the fans in the audience).

Photo by Travis Holcomb
Photo by Travis Holcomb (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Alessia Cara might just be 19, but she’s got the pipes of an old soul. The precocious teenager who used to pass her time covering songs by Adele, Amy Winehouse, and Lorde in her closet, is now seemingly on the brink of joining the ranks of her idols. Not a bad come-up for a self-proclaimed “anti-social pessimist”.