If the pop star thing doesn’t work out, Alessia Cara could always try her hand at life coaching. The Canadian pop sensation is full of platitudes at Glastonbury’s John Peel Stage today, insisting you should “never change yourself for anyone; you are beautiful” and reminding everyone that you should always follow your ambition in life because “no dream is invalid”.
This is all relentlessly earnest, yes, but also quite endearing. After all, her fantastic (and appropriately titled) recent debut album ‘Know It All’ similarly wears its heart on its sleeve. Delivered via song, the 19-year-old’s pearls of wisdom are much less tempting to quibble with. Wearing Wellington boots (Hunters, naturally) in a show of solidarity for the mud-drenched punters, she’s a charmer throughout.
Opening with album highlight ‘I’m Yours’ is an ambitious gambit and it’s true that the rest of this show doesn’t really live up to that early promise. Well, how could it? The audience sings the words to this perfectly-formed pop song back at her, indicating the universality of its lyrics: “I’ve had my heart broken before… But I made room for you / Baby, I’m yours.” Cara seems genuinely overwhelmed by the massive turnout, cooing, “I’m from a little place called Brampton, Ontario and I never thought I’d get this far and play for so many people” as way of introducing ‘Four Pink Walls’, a languid, funky track that charts her rise from her childhood home to nascent pop stardom.
As she plays acoustic track ‘Overdosed’, a chanted lament about a fucked-up relationship, Cara’s voice begins to warm up and her real talent is revealed. The wonderfully, melodramatically titled ballad ‘River Of Tears’ consists only of piano and her dexterous vocal work-out, which could put Mariah Carey to shame. This theme continues with the propulsive ‘Scars To Your Beautiful’, which is pure, distilled Alessia Cara: earnestness and killer pop hooks in equal measure.
The show ends where Cara began: with Portishead-sampling 2015 single ‘Here’, the first song the former YouTube star released officially through a record label. She changes the lyrics to “What the hell am I doing here… with my wellies on?” The answer is that she’s doing what she does best: encouraging us to accept and even embrace life’s inevitable imperfections.
We caught up with Alessia at her home in Ontario. Watch the video below.